The Military Vote Could Be the Key to Winning Florida in 2020

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(Tim Evanson)

A Monmouth University poll of likely voters in Florida finds Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump by 3 to 5 points, just squeaking by the poll's margin of error.

The poll, released Tuesday, shows largely unsurprising results for regional and demographic polls -- except for one: the president's support among military and veteran households.

"The current picture has Biden maintaining a typical Democratic advantage in southern Florida while making notable inroads in other parts of the state," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Veterans and military members make up more than a third of the state's voters, a bloc Trump easily carried along with military-veteran communities in other battleground states such as Ohio and North Carolina. Trump currently leads with those voters in Florida at 50% to Biden's 46%.

Nationwide, Hillary Clinton lost the vote among military members and veterans in 2016, 61% to 34%. She lost the vet vote in Florida by a double-digit margin.

According to the most recent poll, 56% of all Florida voters believe the president respects members of the military and veterans, but 70% say the same about Biden. When military and veteran households were asked whether President Trump respects service members, those numbers look better for the incumbent: 60% of military-veteran households believe Trump respects them, and 69% believe the same of Biden.

Monmouth University's pollsters don't know why military and veteran voters are shifting away from the president, but recent accusations of Trump making derogatory remarks about military members in recent days could be why.

Read: Report: Trump Disparaged US War Dead as 'Losers,' 'Suckers'

"Are the incumbent's alleged negative statements about the military responsible? We can't say for certain since we don't have a prior trend on this question. But it sure can't be helping," Murray said.

The president has a long history of making controversial public statements about military veterans, including former Arizona Sen. John McCain, Gen. Colin Powell and the Gold Star family of Capt. Humayun Khan, an Army officer killed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in 2004.

Clinton also maintained a five-point lead over Trump in September 2016. Florida is an important state because its 29 electoral votes are tied with New York for the third-highest in the country after California's 55 and Texas' 38.

The last U.S. president to win the office without winning in Florida was Bill Clinton in 1992. Before that, it was John F. Kennedy in 1960.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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