Florida's Cuban Americans Are Coming Back to the GOP

One quick note to add to Rich’s point about Trump showing surprising strength with Latino voters in Florida: Either Trump, or the Democratic Party’s increasingly open embrace of the “socialist” label, or both are bringing Florida’s Cuban Americans back to the Republican Party.

The conventional wisdom about Florida politics was that the Cuban-American community, focused around Miami, was part of the bedrock foundation of the GOP vote in the Sunshine State, ever since the Bay of Pigs Invasion, or at least the Mariel boatlift. But by the Obama era, that traditional Cuban-American party loyalty had started to wane. By 2008, 38 percent of Cuban Americans voted for Obama over John McCain, even though Obama had called for greater engagement with Cuba and that Obama said he was willing to meet with Raul Castro. Four years later, Obama won an even greater share of the Cuban-American vote in the state, 47 percent to Romney’s 50 percent. Obama won the state of Florida both times, and not getting walloped among the state’s Cuban-American community was a key factor. Many Florida Democrats convinced themselves that Cuban Americans were starting to vote like more Democratic-leaning groups of Latino Americans.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton was a less likable candidate, perhaps her campaign was in denial about their level of support in Florida, perhaps Obama’s trip to Cuba in May 2016 alienated Florida’s Cuban Americans, or perhaps Cuban-American small businessmen saw Trump as a better choice for the economy. Whatever the reason, Trump won Cuban Americans in Florida 54 percent to 41 percent in 2016. And in the 2018 gubernatorial election, Cuban Americans broke 2 to 1 in favor of Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum.

And if the numbers in the latest NBC survey are accurate — that Trump actually leads not just among Cuban Americans specifically but among Florida’s Latinos overall — then his odds of winning the key state of Florida look particularly strong.

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