PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (CN) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden courted seniors and Black voters in South Florida on Tuesday, the former vice president’s second stop to the nation’s largest battleground state in just over a week.
During his remarks at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center in Pembroke Pines, Biden laid out his policy proposals for older Americans while criticizing President Donald Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s harder than ever to spend time with the people you love,” Biden told a small group of invitees. “We’ve all felt that interruption. Things didn’t have to be this bad. His handling of this virus has been erratic, just like his presidency.”
Throughout the 45-minute speech, Biden promised to shore up Medicare and Social Security while tugging at the audience’s heartstrings.
“How many of you have not been able to hug your grandkids for the last seven months?” Biden asked the crowd.
“It’s become painfully clear — as his careless, arrogant, reckless Covid response has caused one of the worst tragedies in American history — the only senior that Donald Trump cares about, the only senior that Donald Trump will do anything for, is Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Later Tuesday afternoon, Biden addressed a drive-in “voter mobilization” event in Miramar. The majority-black South Florida city has one of the largest concentrations of Jamaican Americans in the country. The father of California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, is Jamaican.
Biden made many of the same remarks as earlier in the day and added calls for racial justice.
“Our communities of color in South Florida and across the country, how do we break the cycle?” Biden said. “The answer is simple: justice.”
“We should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacists marching through our streets,” Biden said to a chorus of honks from those in attendance.
Biden came back to Florida for the third time since becoming the Democratic nominee just a day after President Donald Trump held a large rally in Sanford, near Orlando, that attracted thousands of supporters. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence plan to make separate visits to the state later in the week — a sign of just how important the battleground state is for both campaigns.
Florida is a must-win for Trump, who changed his residency from New York to the Sunshine State late last year. The president won Florida by less than 1% of the vote in 2016.
Biden has maintained a slight lead over Trump in Florida polls over the last several weeks. In a survey released Tuesday, the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative found Biden leading Trump 51% to 47%. The margin of error is 3.8 points.
The poll showed the economy and coronavirus pandemic are key issues among the electorate and Trump’s support may be waning among seniors.
“Joe Biden continues to be competing better for senior voters than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, and that could be the difference in Florida,” said Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at FAU.
Biden’s low-key events were was in stark contrast to Trump’s rally on Monday, where he boasted about his coronavirus immunity just days after his release from Walter Reed Hospital.
“I feel so powerful,” Trump told the largely maskless crowd on the tarmac of the Orlando Sanford International Airport. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there. I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll the kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”
The Trump campaign pushed back against Biden’s criticisms late Tuesday.
“As Joe Biden visited Broward County, a place Hillary Clinton won with 66% of the vote, he was clearly struggling to excite core Democrat voters who remain hugely unenthusiastic about his campaign,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s communication director, said in a statement. “Biden resorted to his worn tactic of lying about President Trump, who has steadfastly protected Social Security and Medicare and who has pledged to always do so.
“His attacks on the federal coronavirus response are also hollow, as Biden still cannot name a single thing he would do differently than President Trump,” Murtaugh added.
The Trump campaign also attacked Biden in an ad released Tuesday criticizing the Democratic nominee for avoiding about “packing” the Supreme Court if he is elected.
According to The Associated Press, Biden told WKRC in Cincinnati on Monday that he is “not a fan” of adding seats to the Supreme Court.
“I’ve already spoken on — I’m not a fan of court packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused,” Biden said.
Florida’s early voting sites open next week. Already, supervisors of elections have sent out more than 5.6 million mail-in ballots — 2.5 million to registered Democrats and 1.7 million to Republicans.
Of those, 1.7 million Floridians have already voted by mail with more Democrats than Republicans returning the ballots.