Menendez may be an Election Night National Kingmaker for Biden – in Florida


Throughout Campaign 2020, the Electoral College Road to Victory for the Democratic Biden-Harris ticket has never in any significant respect changed.  The goal, of course, is to win the 270 electoral votes needed to elect the next president.

The “Core States”, consisting of all the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, has a total of 233 electoral votes.  Donald Trump has never led in any of these states during this campaign, and the likelihood of the Biden-Harris ticket carrying all these states is excellent.

The next category, the ”Prime Target States” consists of those three states Hillary Clinton was expected to carry in 2016 but lost narrowly to Donald Trump.  Those three states are Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), and Wisconsin (10), for a total of 46.

The Biden-Harris ticket has consistently as of late led in all three states with an average margin above five per cent.  These three states, together with the Core States, would give the Biden-Harris ticket 279 electoral votes, and thus the White House.

The growing likelihood that the Biden-Harris ticket will carry all the Core States plus the Prime Target States has made Joe Biden the current favorite in the Real Clear Politics average of betting markets, 52 to 47.  I expect that after the debates, based on Trump’s abysmal performance in the ABC Town Meeting on Tuesday night, Biden’s advantage in these batting markets is likely to increase substantially.

The next grouping, the “Favored to Flip” category, consists of one state, Arizona (11), which has voted Republican in all past presidential elections but in which Biden has maintained consistently a lead in this campaign season.  The combination of Core States, Prime Target States, and Favored to Flip states give Biden a bedrock minimum of 290 electoral votes, a comfortable 20 electoral vote margin over the 270 needed to win.

Yet the Biden-Harris ticket has a strong chance of winning more than this total by achieving a victory in one or more of the three Toss-Up States: North Carolina (15), Georgia (16), and Florida (29).  And the likelihood of a Biden victory in this category, in a generic sense, was boosted significantly by the results announced yesterday in the Reuters-Ipsos poll, which reported a Biden lead over Trump of 50-41 nationally. Yet this was the least of the bad news for Trump from this poll.

The Trump message to suburban white America in the 2018 Congressional midterms was a bigoted fear-and-hate anti-Latino message.  It was a Trump statement that illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America were coming in caravans across the Mexican border to take over America.  This message drowned in a blue wave national landslide, as the Democrats took over the House of Representatives.

The Trump campaign has a similar racist fear-and-hate message to suburban White America in the 2020 campaign.  It states that African-Americans, protected pre-Trump by anti-discrimination open housing laws, are coming to take over and destroy America’s suburbs.   The Reuters-Ipsos poll demonstrates conclusively that this racist Trump message will be a catastrophic and abysmal failure as well, resulting in a 2020 Blue Tsunami, giving the Democrats control of the White House and Senate as well.

Unfortunately for Trump, White Americans are much more racially tolerant and less racist than he wants them to be.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that only 11% of suburban whites said the most important factor driving their vote was a candidate’s perceived interest in being “tough on crime” and civil unrest.

That is down from 13% of suburban whites who responded to a similar poll that ran Sept. 9-10, and 15% who said the same thing in a Sept. 3-8 poll.

Instead, when asked about the most important factor driving their vote, 27% of suburban whites said they were looking for a candidate with a robust plan for handling the virus, while 25% said they wanted someone who would restore trust in American government.  On these two issues, Biden will wipe the floor with Trump.

So given the fact that Trump has no effective message, expect him to run a campaign of ad hominem smear, sleaze, and defamation during the rest of the campaign.  Currently, he is resorting to an ugly, vile message that Joe Biden is a pedophile with dementia.

The repulsive ugliness of the Trump campaign can only increase the chances of Biden triumphs in the three Toss-Up States. And Tuesday, the news from the Monmouth Poll in Florida was outstanding for Joe Biden.

The Monmouth Poll, rated A-plus in Nate Silver’s ranking of polls as one of the six best in the nation is a tremendous source of New Jersey pride.  This Monmouth Poll in Florida reported a present five-point lead for Biden, who leads Trump 50-45.  And despite Democratic worries of defections from Biden among Latino voters, the poll shows Biden leading among Florida Latinos by 26, 58-32, roughly in line with Hillary Clinton’s 27-point margin in 2016.

I believe that Biden is definitely going to win the White House, as explained above, with at least his sweep of the states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, plus Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona.  The problem is that given the huge surge in the mail vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the count there will probably not be completed until Thursday, November 5, two days after the election.

In these three states, the count of the mail vote cannot begin until after the polls close.  I fully expect that during the time from the closing of the polls on Election Day until completion of the count on Thursday, November 5, Trump will make a spurious victory claim.

By contrast, in Florida, the count of the mail vote can proceed before the polls close, and the total statewide count should be completed by the end of Election Night.  A Biden victory in Florida will make a Trump electoral college victory impossible and render moot any Trump spurious claims of victory in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

So the prime hope of the Biden campaign in the Toss-Up states is for a victory in. Florida.  And that is where our own US Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, will play a vital role.

There is a legitimate concern of the Biden campaign that there may be a certain softness in the Biden share of the Latino vote.  The Latino vote is not a monolith.

There are actually four Latino  constituencies in Florida, each with a distinctive culture:  1) the Cuban; 2) the Puerto Rican, which is growing in numbers along the I-4 Corridor and has a strong Democratic leaning;  3) the Venezuelan, a constituency which has been actively and successfully courted by Republican US Senator Rick Scott; and 4) other Caribbean nations.

I spoke this week with somebody close to Menendez, and he advised me that the Senator would be making a significant number of appearances on Florida Cuban television and radio in support of the Biden-Harris ticket.  The television appearances would be virtual in this era of the Covid-19.

Unlike the Cuban community in New Jersey, which leans heavily Democratic, this Florida Cuban community up until recently has had a strong Republican voting inclination, stemming from the strong anti-Castro ideology of the immigrants to Florida in the late 1950s and early 1960s and their belief, however misperceived, that the Kennedy administration had sold  out the anti-Castro rebels at the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961.  Over the years, however, the new, younger generations of Florida Cubans have shown in their voting a much greater willingness to vote Democratic.

There is a concern among Florida Democrats that this younger generation of Florida Cuban voters may be driven towards voting for Trump, due to the false attacks on Biden as a socialist.  The younger generation of Florida Cubans are entrepreneurial and have just as strong an anti-Socialist conviction as their parents. And in order to attract as many votes for Joe Biden from young Florida Cuban voters, Bob Menendez, the highest-ranking Latino in the United States Congress, will play a most vital and significant role.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Bob Menendez is the most popular politician of Cuban ancestry among Cuban-Americans nationally.  He is most proud of his Cuban heritage, and nobody doubts his authenticity in this regard.

Bob Menendez has a superb bilingual competency in both English and Spanish.  Ironically, English was his original language, and he learned Spanish in the public schools.  Yet he speaks both languages with equal felicity, and this will enable Menendez to be an excellent communicator on both Spanish and English television and radio in Florida.

The Senator has throughout his career been outspokenly anti-Castro, and has been emphatically center-left in his politics.  Any Trumpist argument that Bob Menendez is a socialist is ludicrous and destined for failure.

And Bob Menendez has an overwhelmingly credible message to Florida Cubans, young and old, all of whom are anti-autocratic.  The message is that Donald Trump is a dangerous authoritarian.

This message will be viewed by all generations of Florida Cubans as totally credible, and Bob Menendez will be viewed as a supremely credible messenger.

The following is a link to a column written by Senator Menendez, “I know an authoritarian when I see one.”  Previously posted on Univision, this anti-Trump message will be devastatingly compelling and effective as delivered by Senator Menendez in Florida.

So Bob Menendez is likely to play a decisive part in enabling Joe Biden to win a share of the Florida Cuban vote sufficient to win the state on Election Night.  The triumph in Florida would guarantee the Biden-Harris ticket a national victory.

It is hardly surprising that Bob Menendez would play an enthusiastic and active role on behalf of the Biden-Harris ticket, aside from his Democratic Party loyalty.  He and Joe Biden have been warm friends for nearly thirty years, each being distinguished as a top-level Congressional expert on foreign policy.

And on Election Night, Bob Menendez will win another victory.

The likelihood is highly favorable for Democratic US Senate pickups to take place in Maine, North Carolina, Montana, Colorado, Iowa, and South Carolina, with only Alabama likely to flip from the Democrats to the Republicans. This will give the Democrats a net pickup of five seats, two more than the net pick-up of three seats they need to gain control of the US Senate.

With the Democrats now in control of the United States Senate, Bob Menendez will become the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.  And he will have warm and grateful friends in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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  • Kathleen Demarest

    Very interesting and insightful column.
    Always impressed with the depth of your knowledge, Alan Steinberg.
    Have always been proud that Senator Robert Menendez represented New Jersey
    where I have happily resided for 88 years.
    AND NOW…… I take more pride in having him represent me.
    His column is outstanding; especially the line,
    “ I know an authoritarian when I see one.”
    Perhaps I do not know an authoritarian when I see one,
    but I definitely know a mentally and morally unfit president when I see one.
    And so, my best wishes are with my New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
    as he campaigns in Florida for the Biden-Harris ticket.

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