Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, is urging 2020 presidential candidates to support Israel and condemn the authoritarian socialist government in Venezuela if they want to win Florida.
Her comments come as 20 of the candidates in the 25-deep Democratic field descend on Miami for two nights of debates. The winner of Florida has won every presidential election since 1996 and all but one since 1964, and it is sure to be a significant battleground state in the 2020 election.
Miami-area Democrats like Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Donna Shalala (D., Fla.), and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D., Fla.) told the Miami Herald that the sprint to the left occurring in the Democratic primary isn't conducive to winning their areas, which have high Jewish and Cuban-American populations.
Wasserman Schultz, who represents one of 12 districts in the United States with at least 100,000 Jewish residents, said "any smart campaign" should look at the last two elections in the state, where Republicans President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis triumphed, albeit narrowly.
"A serious campaign for the presidency in Florida will micro-target and hyper-focus on the vast, diverse ethnic issues that are important to our base communities," she said.
The Miami Herald reports:
For Wasserman Schultz, that includes a pro-Israel message and lots of talk about Venezuela.
Both Democrats and Republicans from Miami-Dade supported Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2017.
But five of the seven U.S. senators running for president voted against a measure sponsored by Rubio in February that allows state and local governments to refrain from doing business with companies that support boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, neither of whom are in the top tier of candidates, supported it.
And some of the Democratic candidates, notably Sanders, have refused to call Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro a dictator or declare Juan Guaidó as the nation’s legitimate leader, which Wasserman Schultz says is a political mistake.
"On the debate stage next week it’ll be absolutely essential, particularly because of how narrowly our state is won and lost, for our candidates to talk about the importance of how we can transition Venezuela to a democracy," she said.
President Donald Trump has worked with Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) in his administration's pressure campaign on Maduro, a far-left dictator who is not seen as Venezuela's legitimate president by the United States. Rubio, who performed well by GOP standards in Miami when he was re-elected in 2016, said he believed Trump had strengthened his support among Cuban-American Republicans.
Mucarsel-Powell said many of the area's residents "don't have a lot of trust in institutions," given the violence and corruption-plagued places they've fled, such as Cuba. She said the candidates "must understand what is happening in Venezuela and Colombia and talk about what affects us here locally."
"I do think that a lot of the Democratic candidates don’t understand the makeup of South Florida," Mucarsel-Powell said. "Most people here come from a different country. There’s not this party loyalty they may find in other areas."
Shalala said "every issue has been all over the place" when asked by the Herald about the leftward policy shift marking the primary debate.
Candidates have called for eliminating private health insurance, paying slavery reparations, packing the Supreme Court, abolishing the Electoral College, and eliminating all student loan debt.