In Jacksonville, a Florida Republican stronghold under threat

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Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair (access the author's page)

"This is one of the last Republican-run towns in the country," said Dean Black, Duval County Republican Party Chairman.

Even though we are in an area that has the reputation of being a castle, three weeks before the vote, his party feels the need to whip up the troops.

Local activists are invited to a manufacturing warehouse that has been transformed for a morning into a political gathering place. Flags of the United States and the Trump campaign have been attached to cranes.

The guest of honor that day: Eric Trump, the president's son, who, like other speakers, reminds activists of the importance of voting on November 3 and convincing those around them to do the same.

President Trump's son Eric.

Eric Trump, the president's son, addressed activists in Florida.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Local President Dean Black is delighted that in recent weeks his volunteers have successfully put large numbers of Republicans on the electoral roll. But, like many activists, he expects an uphill struggle to prevent his stronghold from changing allegiance.

It's a battle, we are working hard.

Sandy, Republican activist

It's a very diverse city, said Sandy, a Republican activist, noting that the region, which is home to military bases, also attracts large numbers of residents from across the country. New voters who are not necessarily attached to the region's Republican heritage.

Already in 2018, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum won in the county, despite losing at the state level.

Registered voters in Duval County (Jacksonville)

  • Democrats: 275,946
  • Republicans: 236,933
  • Independent: 140,446

Dealing with disappointed Republicans

In this context, Republicans are keen to ensure they have a united base.

Sandy believes that by promoting issues like religious freedom and the right to bear a gun, the Trump campaign will rally Republicans on voting day.

Republican activists came to listen to Eric Trump in Jacksonville, Florida.

Republican activists came to listen to Eric Trump in Jacksonville, Florida.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

But other activists at the rally, like Crissy, admit that Donald Trump's abrasive style can be repulsive to some voters, including republicans.

Such is the case of longtime local Republican Jim Zaenglein, who nostalgically evokes the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

I want our country to regain respect and be honest.

Jim Zaenglein, Republican disappointed with Trump

This doctor, who accuses the president to have lied and not to have handled very well the COVID-19 pandemic, already had doubts about Donald Trump in 2016, but could not resign himself to voting in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Jim Zaenglein, a Republican voter from Jacksonville who will vote for Joe Biden in November.

Jim Zaenglein, a Republican voter who will vote for Joe Biden in November.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

This year, he will support Joe Biden without hesitation. He is rather centrist. It's embarrassing to have Trump as president, he said.

A sentiment shared by independent voter Anthony Brazell. In 2016, he did not support the Republican candidate, but said he was open to his message.

I didn't think he would be a great president, but I didn't think he would be bad either., he says.

After almost four years in Trump administration, Anthony Brazell talks about the need to press the reset button. The way to do that, he says, is to support Joe Biden's candidacy.

The silent majority must speaklocal Republican Party Chairman Dean Black said, convinced there are still enough voters in favor of the president's message for him to come out on top in the electoral battle.

In his opinion, a victory in Jacksonville is essential to keep Florida in the column of the Red States.

Usually, the Northeast gives surplus Republican votes that are necessary to compensate for the large number of Democrats voting in South Florida., he explains, noting the strategic importance of his region.

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