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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Cut GOP Edge with Cuban American Voters in FL

Michael J. Mishak’s AP report “Democrats Breaking GOP’s Long Lock on Cuban Vote” spells serious trouble for the GOP in Florida. As Mishak sets the stage:

For more than two decades, running for Congress in this sun-soaked capital of Cuban exiles has required two things: a Republican registration card and a hard line toward the Castro regime.
So when Joe Garcia became the first Cuban-American Democrat from the state to win election to the House in 2012, it signaled a crack in a critical GOP constituency.
In a break with the exile community, Garcia campaigned in support of loosening restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit relatives on the island or send them money. Since taking office, he has pushed for U.S. trials of a Cuba-developed diabetes treatment and for easing travel rules for Cuban diplomats who visit the U.S.
And while Florida Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, fumed when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro last month, Garcia dismissed it as a simple courtesy.
“Sometimes a handshake is just a handshake,” he said.

Mishak backs up his contention with data:

In 2012, Obama captured nearly half of the Cuban-American vote in Florida, a record high for a Democrat. He has since pledged to “update” a U.S. policy that prohibits even the most basic business dealings with the island…
Polls show new immigrants and younger Cuban-Americans are more motivated by domestic concerns, including health care, education and the economy, than by anti-communist fervor. A study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Cubans are the Hispanic group most likely to say they have “only a little” or “almost nothing” in common with those living in their family’s native country.

With respect to Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County:

Florida International University’s most recent poll of that group, done in 2011, found that 44 percent of them opposed continuing the embargo, and 53 percent said it had not worked at all. Two decades ago, 80 percent favored the economic sanctions.

Mishak goes on to report on Rep. Garcia’s role in promoting a thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba as emblematic of the new generation of Cuban-American leaders emerging in Florida, much to the dismay of the old guard Republican Cubans and their younger followers, like Sen. Rubio. He also quotes GOP leaders saying that recent trends favoring Dems are temporary expressions of Republicans fielding inept candidates of late.
Dems still have an uphill campaign to win over a majority of Cuban-American voters. But even getting a healthy minority of such an important demographic group in this swing state can make a big difference, since “Cubans now make up about a third of Florida’s fast-growing Hispanic population,” as Mishak reports.

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