President Joe Biden starts campaign trip to court Latino voters, with Arizona on itinerary

Mar 19, 2024, 6:52 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm

President Joe Biden, wearing sunglasses, gives a thumbs up sign as he departs the White House on Ma...

President Joe Biden departs the White House on March 19, 2024, on his way to campaign stops in Nevada, Arizona and Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — President Joe Biden sought personally Tuesday to reengage the Latino voters who helped power his winning coalition in 2020 by drawing contrasts with Republican challenger Donald Trump on veterans, job creation, foreign policy and other issues.

Biden told supporters greeting him at a campaign office in Reno, Nevada, that he and Trump have a “different value set” and he criticized Trump for comments he’s made about veterans and others.

“I never heard a president say the things that he has said,” Biden said. He said millions of jobs disappeared during Trump’s presidency and that the Republican doesn’t understand foreign policy or U.S. national security needs.

Biden said Washoe County, where Reno is located, and Nevada are “really, really, really critical” for the November election. Nevada is among seven states that will determine the next president.

“We’re going to beat him again,” Biden said of Trump.

Biden also was stopping Tuesday in Las Vegas to promote his administration’s housing policies and Phoenix for another campaign appearance in a critical swing county paired with an event to discuss his support of the computer chip manufacturing sector.

His arrival in Reno coincided with the launch of Latinos con Biden-Harris (Spanish for Latinos with Biden-Harris). Campaign ads ran in English, Spanish and Spanglish, a blend of the two languages, as did two Spanish-language radio interviews with the president. Biden is also emphasizing his pro-union, pro-abortion rights message during the trip.

“The Latino community is critical to the value set we have,” Biden said on “El Bueno, la Mala y el Feo” (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”) on Univision Radio. “I plan on working like the devil to earn your support.”

Biden’s push with Latino voters is part of the campaign’s broader efforts to lay the groundwork to reengage various constituencies that will be critical to his reelection bid. That effort is all the more crucial as key parts of Biden’s base, such as Black and Hispanic adults, have become increasingly disenchanted with his performance in office.

In the Univision interview, Biden turned questions about immigration into an indictment of Trump for calling migrants “animals” and saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the U.S. Biden also noted Trump’s pledge to carry out mass deportations if given another term.

“We have to stop this guy, we can’t let this happen,” Biden said. “We are a nation of immigrants.”

In an AP-NORC poll conducted in February, 38% of U.S. adults approved of how Biden was handling his job. Nearly 6 in 10 Black adults (58%) approved, compared to 36% of Hispanic adults. Black adults are more likely than white and Hispanic adults to approve of Biden, but that approval has dropped in the three years since Biden took office.

Biden’s reelection campaign, along with allied Democratic groups, has opened offices in Washoe County and in specific areas of Las Vegas that aides said will help the campaign with Black, Latino and Asian American voters.

Bilingual campaign organizers are already in place in Arizona, and the campaign has opened an office in Maryvale, a major Latino community in Phoenix. The campaign has hired more than 40 staffers in Nevada and Arizona.

Campaign officials believe that tuned-out voters are starting to pay attention to the reality of a rematch between Biden and Trump now that they have clinched their respective nominations. They’re trying to boost coalition-building efforts in battleground states now that the matchup is set, using the energy coming out of Biden’s State of the Union address this month to jolt their campaign momentum.

Latinos con Biden-Harris will formally launch at Biden’s Phoenix stop and include other campaign events, such as volunteer trainings and house parties, in other battleground states including Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin later this week. The campaign already has similar groups geared toward women and college students.

“This isn’t stuff that you can just stand up. This is stuff that requires work,” Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign, said in an interview. “It does require training. It does require making sure that your volunteers and supporters have what they need on the ground.”

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee dismissed dozens of staffers after new leaders closely aligned with Trump took over last week. Those let go include people who worked at the party’s community centers that helped build relationships with minority groups in some Democratic-leaning areas. The committee’s new leadership has since insisted that those centers will remain open.

Still, the Biden campaign and the broader Democratic Party are confronting their own struggles, despite their cash and organizational advantages. On top of Biden’s weaker job performance numbers, Democrats are seeing less support from key voting blocs come election time: While Biden won 63% of Hispanic voters in 2020, that percentage shrunk to 57% for Democratic candidates in the 2022 midterms, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the national electorate.

Biden campaign officials say they are confident that once the contrast between the president’s agenda and Trump’s plans for a second term are presented to disillusioned members of Biden’s coalition, they will ultimately back the president.

“I can say this as a Latina, we always come late to the party. We like to make a grand entrance,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “I think that’s what you will see again because when it comes down to people making a real decision that is consequential to their future, the future of their children, the future of their communities, it’s not some random phone call from an anonymous pollster — I think that the Democratic coalition will come home.”

Alongside the campaign stops, the administration is pairing official White House events on matters that resonate in the two states.

In Arizona, Biden will discuss a law he signed encouraging domestic manufacturing of computer chips, which has spurred significant private investment in the state, especially in Phoenix.

In Nevada, he will promote a proposal to offer a mortgage relief credit to first-time homebuyers and a seller’s tax credit to encourage homeowners to offload their starter homes.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., stressed that Democrats cannot take her state — which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2004 — for granted, even as she dismissed some polling that shows Trump with an edge in Nevada.

“You got to be there talking to voters, particularly in Nevada,” she said. “It’s a swing state. It’s very diverse. And people just expect that type of engagement, so they can decide for themselves.”

Biden is scheduled to close the trip at a trio of fundraisers in Dallas and Houston.

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President Joe Biden starts campaign trip to court Latino voters, with Arizona on itinerary