ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – As Hillary Clinton campaigns in Florida on Monday, the Democratic presidential nominee will again visit the I-4 corridor, the crucial swing section of this swing state that has led President Barack Obama to victories in the last two presidential election cycles.
Clinton hopes to continue that pattern by relying heavily on a key voter demographic along this serpentine highway that cuts through the center of the Sunshine state like a concrete river: The Latino voter.
A top Clinton aide involved in Latino outreach tells Fox News Latino that the campaign has initiated an all-out grassroots effort to register Hispanics, especially new Puerto Rican arrivals, along the I-4 corridor, and mobilize them to the polls.
"The clear priority of our efforts centers around voter registration and [get out the vote]," The Clinton campaign aide said.
The campaign is targeting primarily, but not limited to, the Puerto Rican voter demographic that has surged in size after the increased turmoil of the Caribbean island. Estimates range that upwards of 300,000 Puerto Rican residents now live in Central Florida, with over 1,000 moving into the area every week.
“A lot of the Hispanics along the I-4 Corridor are relatively newcomers,” Dr. Susan Macmanus from the University of South Florida said in an interview, "You have an influx of Puerto Ricans as the island’s economy has collapsed."
The efforts by the campaign include "phone banking sessions, our canvassing kick-offs, hosting house and debate watch- parties," she said.
In Orlando, one of the largest cities along the I-4 corridor, the campaign has launched “several initiatives to appeal to the Puerto Ricans community” including "Caravana para Hillary", a Puerto Rican custom to drive in a caravan of cars and trucks to express their “apoyo” or support.
On Monday, Clinton will campaign in St. Petersburg, Florida, just outside of Tampa, and Kissimmee, where a large Puerto Rican community has taken root.
As recently as 2006, more Latinos were registered Republicans (37 percent) than Democrats (33 percent). But according to statistics supplied by Florida Department of State Division of Elections, since 2010, there are upwards of 38 percent of Hispanics now registered as Democrats compared to 27 percent who are Republicans.
Overall, Latinos make up nearly 15 percent of the state’s 12 million registered voters. Of the eligible Hispanic voters in Florida, Puerto Ricans make up almost 30 percent. Cuban-Americans, also a large Hispanic voting bloc in Florida, for years traditionally voted Republican but voted for Obama, in part, due to the shift in ideology by millennial Cuban voters.
“Clinton is trying to put Florida away. She is ahead here in a state that is very competitive,” MacManus said. “These repeated visits along the I-4 corridor, and then heading down to South Florida, she is really trying to lock in support and when she has locked in Florida, she can spend some time in other places that might turn blue to red.”
The efforts by the Clinton campaign are not just specific to Florida but in various key battleground states like Nevada, Colorado, and surprisingly the Republican stronghold of Arizona, which recent polls show a tight race due in part to the rise of Hispanic voters against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
"We’ve opened offices in every state, because we want to compete everywhere. We want to bring our message and our vision to all corners of our country," the Clinton aide added.
The GOP is also stepping up its efforts to court Latinos. They are banking on popular Latino Republicans on the ticket to drive Hispanics to Trump.
Clinton leads Trump among Latinos by a whopping 48 points, according to a recent national Fox News poll. About 68 percent supported her while only 20 percent supported the billionaire.
“He started his campaign by describing Mexican immigrants as ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists.’ He retweets white nationalists. He says a distinguished judge can’t be trusted because he is of Mexican heritage,” Clinton said during her remarks in front of minority journalists in Washington, D.C. “I believe with all my heart that America is better than this. America is better than Donald Trump.’
Clinton has also highlighted efforts by her campaign to utilize Spanish-language platforms to convey her message to Hispanic voters.
"We just launched an all-Spanish Twitter account, because we want to bring as many Americans as possible into this conversation," Clinton said to a joint gather of Latino and black journalists on Friday.
Spanish-speaking surrogates have also been a frequent presence on Spanish language radio and local television across the states which the Clinton campaign says has “amplified Hillary's message and platform to the Latino community.”
The Clinton campaign has also strengthened their campaign staff to target Latino voters with new additions to their ranks, led by DREAMer activist Lorella Praelli. The aides include Christina Carrica Haley, Jason Rodriguez and Elianne Ramos, who are building on the campaign’s efforts to reach Latino voters through a variety of "innovative platforms," the campaign told Fox News Latino.
Praeli spoke emotionally about her undocumented immigrant experience during her speech last month at the Democratic convention. In her conclusion, she detailed what has become a motto for the Latino outreach efforts, one campaign staffer said in Philadelphia following her speech.
"Let's go out. Knock on doors, talk to our friends and family, register new voters,” Praeli said to applause, “make sure that no one stays home! And together, make history this November."
Serafin Gomez is a White House Producer for FOX News Channel, who also covered the 2016 election as a Special Events & Politics producer and former special campaign correspondent for Fox News Latino. Fin formerly worked as the Miami Bureau Producer for Fox News Channel where he covered Florida Politics & Latin America. Follow him on Twitter: @Finnygo