President Joe Biden greets Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County as he arrives at Miami International Airport Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in Miami. Biden will attend a fundraiser while in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Donald Trump’s private jet, emblazoned with his last name in bold white letters, was parked nearby when Air Force One landed in Florida, where President Joe Biden labeled his predecessor and potential opponent in this year’s campaign as a “loser” while raising money for his reelection on Tuesday.

It was a typical jab from Biden, but it came with extra punch on Trump’s home turf. The first fundraiser of the day was held at the Pelican Club in Jupiter, a wealthy enclave less than an hour from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

“You’re the reason Donald Trump’s the defeated president,” Biden told donors. “And you’re the reason we’re going to make him a loser again.”

Biden said Republicans were determined to undo his administration’s progress, such as limiting the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs, and he accused Trump of “threatening our very democracy.”

A second fundraiser is scheduled for the evening in Miami. Biden has been buoyed by positive economic news as fears of a recession have faded. Now he’s eager to stockpile campaign cash to help him promote his record and target Trump in what is expected to be a grueling and expensive election year.

Although Florida’s wealthy donors make the state an important stop for Biden, it’s unlikely to swing his way in November. President Barack Obama won Florida in 2008 and 2012, but Trump carried the state in 2016 and 2020.

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In addition, Republicans routed Democrats in Florida in the 2022 midterm elections, when they won campaigns for governor, U.S. Senate and other statewide positions by about 20 percentage points across the board. Voter registration, which favored Democrats by 600,000 a little more than a decade ago, now shows Republicans with an 800,000-voter margin.

Biden nevertheless expressed optimism about his chances here.

“I think we can win Florida,” he said in Jupiter.

Florida’s rightward lean reflects the arrival of retirees from the Midwest and Northeast who generally favor Republicans, but also the political preferences of the state’s Latino population. AP VoteCast found that Biden won just 54% of the state’s Latino voters in 2020, down substantially from his national average of 63%.

Inflation is also much more of a challenge in Florida, where residents tend to drive more and the economy depends on tourism. Although consumer sentiment has improved and inflation has eased, higher prices have been a persistent weight on Biden’s approval numbers. The consumer price index for the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area jumped 5.7% in December from a year ago, compared to 3.4% nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Still, White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One that Florida’s economy had benefited from Biden’s policies, saying they have led to infrastructure projects and spurred $9 billion in private sector investment. She noted that Florida’s unemployment rate is below the national average at 3% but was 5.9% when Biden took office.

Kevin Wagner, a Florida Atlantic University political science professor who runs the Palm Beach County school’s polling operation, said Biden has a chance in Florida given the high number of independents, who make up about a quarter of the electorate.

Wagner also said the inability of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s former rival for the Republican nomination, and the state legislature to rein in Florida’s skyrocketing housing prices and insurance rates could cost the party votes.

“The assumption that Florida will necessarily be an easy victory for Republicans is questionable,” Wagner said.

Both Florida parties have been hit by infighting. The Republicans recently ousted their state party chair, Christian Ziegler, after he got caught up in a sex scandal.

“President Biden can keep visiting Florida all he wants, but I hope while he is here he learns from the policies here that are working. We look forward to retiring him and his failed administration in November,” the party’s new chair, Evan Power, said in a statement.

The state Democratic Party has long been plagued by disorganization. After the 2020 election, party employees learned that their medical insurance had not been paid, leaving them uncovered and some with significant doctor bills.

Former state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried was elected party chair last year in response to the 2022 trouncing. Fried is the only Democrat to win a statewide race in the last decade when she won in 2018, but so far hasn’t been able to stem the party’s voter registration slide.

Fried said proposals that would restrict abortion and legalize marijuana could be on the ballot, driving up turnout among Democrats and left-leaning independents.

“Florida is in play and is worth fighting for,” she said.

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