Live updates: Joe Biden CNN town hall

Supporters of President Donald Trump share a laugh as they wait for the president to participate in a Latinos for Trump Coalition roundtable on Monday, September 14 in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin/AP

President Trump’s reelection campaign’s early, aggressive play to cut into Democrats’ advantage with Latino voters has Democratic elected officials and operatives concerned that a softening of support from the group could be decisive in November’s election.

Despite a message many say resonates with Spanish-speaking voters, those officials and operatives say Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has been slow to commit the needed resources and time to at least match where Hillary Clinton finished with the key demographic in 2016.

What the polls say: A string of polls shows Trump has increased his standing with Hispanic voters over the last four years. Although the President is still trailing heavily — an analysis by CNN’s Harry Enten found Biden is winning Hispanic voters by 28 percentage points — Biden is underperforming Clinton, who led by 37 percentage points in an average of final pre-election polls.

The narrowing gap with Latinos is putting more pressure on Biden to hold or even expand his lead with White and older voters, two blocs with whom the Democrat has cut into Trump’s lead, allowing him to maintain an overall lead in national polling and crucial states, like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Asked why his numbers among Hispanic voters are as low as they are right now, Biden said on Monday that his number are much higher than Trump’s, but added, “But they gotta go higher.”

Some Democrats, concerned that Biden’s advantage with White voters could narrow, believe he needs to dial up his focus — and dedicate more resources — toward targeting the diverse array of Latino voters in key states like Florida, Nevada and Arizona that could tip the balance for the former vice president and win him the White House in November.

How the Biden campaign is expanding outreach: Biden’s campaign contends that they are making significant investments in courting Latino voters, including hiring targeted vote directors in 11 states, using Latino-run mail and polling firms to court voters, and running micro-targeted, bespoke ads that employ Mexican accents in Arizona, Cuban accents in Miami and Puerto Rican accents in Orlando and Tampa.

And the overarching issue facing the community right now, said Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a Biden campaign deputy campaign manager, is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The devastation that the community has seen both from a public health perspective and an economic perspective is one that has drastically impacted Latino voters in all of the battle ground states,” said Chavez Rodriguez. “The reality is over 25,000 Latinos have lost their lives as a result of Covid. The numbers didn’t have to be that high. … Those are the realities that I think Latinos are facing today.”

The campaign is also working to combat election disinformation, with organizers reporting that an array of wild, false conspiracy theories are being directed at Spanish-speaking voters, especially in battleground Florida.

Rodriguez said that the campaign is “seeing voter suppression at a whole new level,” so while the Trump campaign is actively reaching out to Latino voters, others are working to “keep folks from actually engaging in a critical election that has a huge impact.”

“It is really disturbing that some of those tactics are being used,” she said

But even Democrats close to Biden concede that it took the campaign a long time — because of the spread of the coronavirus and the campaign’s money issues early in the general election — to commit the needed resources to Latino outreach.

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