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Biden tells Arizona Latino voters they’re the reason he defeated Trump in 2020

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at El Portal restaurant Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Phoenix.
Jacquelyn Martin
President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at El Portal restaurant Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Phoenix.

President Joe Biden personally appealed to Latino voters during a stop in Phoenix Tuesday, saying they're the reason he defeated Donald Trump in 2020 and urging them to help him do it again in November.

"I need you back," he told several dozen supporters packed into a local Mexican restaurant.

Biden said the upcoming election isn't a referendum on him, but rather a choice between "me and a guy named Trump." The Democrat highlighted Trump's derogatory rhetoric toward Latinos, from saying during his winning 2016 campaign that many of those coming to the United States from Mexico are rapists to the Republican's more recent claim that migrants are "poisoning the blood of our country."

Biden said Hispanic unemployment is the lowest it's been in a long time because of his policies, highlighted administration initiatives to help small businesses and reduce gun violence, and criticized Trump for wanting more tax cuts for rich people.

"He wants to get rid of all the programs we put together," Biden said.

Biden's push with Latino voters is part of the campaign's broader efforts to lay the groundwork to reengage various constituencies he will need to be reelected. 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 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, who is on a three-day campaign swing through Arizona, Nevada and Texas that's designed largely to court Latino voters, told supporters at an earlier political stop Tuesday in Reno, Nevada, that he and Trump have a "different value set." He also criticized Trump's rhetoric.

"I never heard a president say the things that he has said," Biden said.

Biden said Washoe County, where Reno is located, and Nevada are "really, really, really critical" for the November election. Nevada is among the roughly half-dozen battlegrounds that will determine the next president, and Washoe is the lone swing county in the state.

"We're going to beat him again," Biden said of Trump.

Afterward, Biden flew to Las Vegas to promote his administration's housing policies. In Phoenix on Wednesday, he'll discuss his support of the computer chip manufacturing sector.

Tuesday's appearances 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.

"I plan on working like the devil to earn your support," Biden said on "El Bueno, la Mala y el Feo" ("The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") on Univision Radio.

In the interview, Biden turned questions about immigration into an indictment of Trump for his language about migrants, most recently saying they are "animals" and not people. Biden also noted Trump's pledge to carry out mass deportations.

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

Biden's reelection campaign, along with allied Democratic groups, have 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. The president said Tuesday that his campaign will open more offices in the state, and Daniel Corona, the campaign's deputy political coalitions director, said Biden's reelection effort was hiring a political director to focus on rural parts of the state.

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.

The Republican National Committee accused Democrats of taking the Hispanic community for granted.

"Republicans will continue receiving with open arms thousands of Hispanics that are moving to our party, disappointed with Democrats and their policies, and will be fundamental to Republican victories all over the country in 2024," said Jaime Florez, the party's director of Hispanic outreach.

Biden 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 are their parties' presumptive nominees. 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.

That includes, for example, ensuring that chapters are in place across college campuses so that students have a place to organize and that campaign offices are open and stocked with yard signs, campaign literature and other materials. Democrats are hoping that Trump and the GOP will struggle to catch up in key states.

Latinos con Biden-Harris formally launched at Biden's Phoenix stop. The campaign 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 RNC 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 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.

Biden is scheduled to close the trip with fundraisers in Dallas and Houston.