Florida’s Puerto Rican community set to play crucial role US senate race

posted by Chris Valentine

Historically one of the most competitive states in American politics, Florida will take a prominent role in the upcoming elections. The race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) is widely expected to become the most expensively fought seat to date. Furthermore, the race for Florida is already being touted as a key indicator of the mood across America as a whole.

Estimates that 40,000 Costa Ricans have moved to Florida in the wake of last year’s hurricane provide a dynamic new angle in this race. Because everyone who has resettled is now eligible to vote, this represents a significant section of Florida’s society given the region’s finely-balanced situation.

Breaking Expectations

To say that the last two years in American politics have been unpredictable would be somewhat of an understatement. One of the few certainties in the current political landscape appears to be that this level of unpredictability is set to continue.

Puerto Ricans have traditionally held conservative values close to heart, however, political leanings have been much more towards the Democratic Party. What is starting to become clear now though, is this tradition can’t be relied upon by Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign team. Despite President Trump’s low approval rate amongst Puerto Ricans, due in large to his mishandling of the aftermath to Hurricane Maria, news polls are showing his party is picking up support from the island’s ex-residents.

The Power Of One

The Republican candidate, Gov. Scott, only officially announced his running for this seat last April. Before then, however, he had long established his reputation in the area. His visit to Puerto Rico the following month was his sixth trip since last September’s storm ravaged the island. Since then he has maintained direct contact with Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló, addressed Puerto Rican business leaders at a conference in Orlando, and even released local employment statistics from a presentation made at a Puerto Rican restaurant.

The result of this courting is on full display through the findings of a recent survey. Of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida since 2017, some 82% hold a high opinion of the governor. This is in stark contrast to the 57% approval rating of his rival, Sen. Nelson.

Hanging In The Balance

While many commentators looking at this race from the outside will find this strange, the vote is primarily for the candidate rather than the party whose flag they fly. Despite these results, the outcome of the Midterms due to be held at the beginning of November is still far to close to call at this stage.

This means there are still many twists left in this story, especially with the bulk of campaigning still to take place. How these two campaigns will be conducted following the controversy still surrounding the social media tactics of the Republicans election win remains to be seen. An online strategy utilizing targeted advertisements, email marketing services, and social networking sites is incredibly likely to play a central part due to its effectiveness. What also seems clear, is Puerto Ricans are viewed by Gov. Rick Scott as a critically important section of society which can help him win back the seat from Democratic control.

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