Former President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Miami Springs on Saturday, stopping by the small, majority Latino city to motivate local campaign workers for Democratic nominee Joe Biden before they headed out to knock on doors.
“I’m not going to keep you all from doing all the great work you’re doing but I just wanted to come by and say thank you...” Obama said. “Many of you were involved when I ran in 2008 and some of you when I ran in 2012 and I am so grateful. The lifeblood of any campaign is not TV ads. It’s not position papers. It’s not the debates. It’s organizing, going out there and doing it every day.”
Obama’s seven-minute stop at the office of the United Teachers of Dade labor union office came just before he was set to hold a drive-in rally in North Miami to early voting. This is Obama’s first South Florida event in two years. In 2018, he visited Wynwood while campaigning for Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and former Sen. Bill Nelson.
“Republicans are doing everything they can to get out their voters, so we have to make sure to double down,” said Christian Ulvert, a Biden advisor and Democratic strategist who was present at the Miami Springs event. “Half a million voters have voted in Miami-Dade... I have not seen this much enthusiasm [before]. We have to tap into that.”
Local organizing ahead of Election Day will be important in areas like heavily Latino areas such as Miami Springs. Polls show that Cuban voters are likely to vote for President Donald Trump at a higher rate in 2020 than they did in 2016.
“If you bring Florida home, this thing’s over,” Obama said, while wearing a black mask with the word “vote” on the front.
He then mentioned Florida’s policy of counting mail-in votes as they are received, meaning that the state could offer some clarity on Election Day once polls are closed.
“I won’t have to wait for the results,” Obama said. “I want to go to sleep knowing we’re going to have a president fighting on our behalf.”
Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez spoke to a group of 16 local organizers before Obama’s arrival, urging them to “leave nothing on the table.”
“We’re working to make sure that our message gets out there,” Rodriguez said. “We’re ground zero for the election.”
The attendees, which included Miami-Dade County Commissioner Elieen Higgins, did not know Obama was dropping by.
Just as Obama arrived to speak in front of a makeshift campaign office adorned with white plastic tables and bottles of water, a couple casually walked by the organizers on the sidewalk, not knowing who was jumping out of his motorcade behind them.
Once the former president got out of the vehicle, organizers gasped and said, “Oh my God.”
Both the campaigns for Biden and President Donald Trump kept up the pressure in South Florida Saturday as both seek to win over groups of voters to build a winning Florida coalition. Trump voted at the Palm Beach County main library around 10 am., in person, and his campaign held organized early voting events in Miami, Naples, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Tampa timed around the president’s vote. Vice President Mike Pence also planned to host a rally in Tallahassee on Saturday.
Trump told reporters in West Palm Beach that he felt more secure voting in person instead of mailing in his ballot. Since becoming a Florida resident in 2019, Trump has voted by mail until now.
Trump’s campaign argued that Obama presence won’t move the needle in Florida, a must-win state for Trump that Obama won in 2008 and 2012.
“After President Trump’s clear victory in the debate Thursday night, sending Barack Obama to the Sunshine State will do nothing to stop President Trump’s looming re-election,” said Trump Victory Spokeswoman Emma Vaughn.
Obama ended his remarks in Miami Springs by reminding organizers to stay safe while door-knocking. The Trump campaign continued door-to-door campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s campaign didn’t begin door-knocking until Oct. 1.
“Remember to wear your masks. Stay safe. Be socially distanced and then go out there and kick some ass,” Obama said.