Joe Biden before a roundtable in Florida. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign is turning its focus to Puerto Rican constituents this week, planning policy rollouts and in-person meetings as polls show his soft support with Hispanic voters in some crucial battleground states.

Why it matters: Both sides are fighting in the lead-up to the election to split the Hispanic vote. President Trump is going for Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters, while Biden tries to appeal to the growing number of Puerto Ricans on the mainland.

  • Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but they're not allowed to vote in general elections if they live on the island. They become eligible to register and vote if they relocate elsewhere in the U.S.
  • Biden leads Trump by 33 points with Puerto Rican voters in Florida, per an August survey of registered Latino voters in the state commissioned for Equis, a Democratic Latino research firm.
  • Their polling also shows the president has a 17-point advantage among Cuban-Americans in Florida.

The big picture: Democrats are targeting the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who've relocated to places like Florida and Pennsylvania after Hurricane Maria decimated the island in 2017.

  • They're hoping to use Trump's handling of that natural disaster, his rhetoric about the island and its mayor, as well as COVID-19's disproportionate effect on the Latino community as part of their message.
  • Meanwhile, a Trump campaign ad in Spanish shows videos of Biden and other Democrats side-by-side with communist or socialist dictators like Cuba's Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez as a ploy to attract those voters who fled those governments.

Driving the news: The Biden campaign released a "recovery, renewal, and respect for Puerto Rico" plan just before his Hispanic Heritage Month event in Florida on Tuesday evening.

  • Biden's Florida visit — his first since accepting the Democratic nomination for president — included a stop in Kissimmee, a heavily Puerto Rican city in the Orlando area.
  • "I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote," Biden told reporters yesterday in Delaware. He added that his numbers with Latinos are “much higher" than Trump's. "But they gotta go higher.”
  • The Democratic Party is buying cell phone data for U.S. residents with Puerto Rico's 787 area code to better target potential voters who've left the island.
  • Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said on a Sunday call with senior Biden campaign officials and reporters that they've identified 80,000 numbers in Pennsylvania and 300,000 in Florida.
  • Kamala Harris, the vice presidential nominee, met with Venezuelans — whom Republicans are targeting by billing Democrats as "socialists" — during her visit to Florida last week.

Go deeper: Biden adviser on Hispanic vote: "We know we have work to do."

Go deeper

What to watch in tonight's debate

Joe Biden (left) and President Trump (right) are facing off in Cleveland for the first presidential debate. Photos: Alex Wong (of Biden) and David Hume Kennerly (of Trump)/Getty Images

President Trump will try to break Joe Biden's composure by going after his son Hunter and other family members in tonight's first presidential debate — a campaign source tells Axios "nothing will be off the table" — while Biden plans to stick to the economy, coronavirus and new revelations about how Trump avoided paying taxes.

Driving the news: Biden and Trump are set to debate at 9pm ET at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and it will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.

How Trump, Biden plan to score at Tuesday's debate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump has been practicing with flashcards and prepping with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before Tuesday's presidential debate.

Behind the scenes: Top aides tell Axios he's been testing his attacks on the campaign trail for weeks, seeing what ignites his crowds or falls flat. One of the biggest themes Trump plans to drive home is his "tough guy" persona, which advisers see as an advantage with voters in key states.

Biden: "I am the Democratic Party right now"

Responding to President Trump's insistence that the Democratic Party "wants to go socialist medicine," Joe Biden said at the presidential debate on Tuesday: "I am the Democratic Party."

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Democratic nominee is not in control of his party and that he will be "dominated" by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Unlike other candidates who Biden ran against in the Democratic primary, he does not support Medicare for All or abolishing private health insurance.

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