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Posted May 23, 2008 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, no doubt believes he scored a 10 with his hard-line Cuba policy speech in Miami earlier this week. But presidential candidates, like figure skaters, are often judged on the originality of their moves —and in that regard McCain may be staring at lower marks in the crucial swing state of Florida than his campaign appreciates.

McCain got the jump on Barack Obama, who is slated to speak to the Cuban-American National Foundation in Miami on Friday. But while Obama is expected to outline a more nuanced approach to Cuba, McCain’s visit to Little Havana and his speech to more conservative Cuban-Americans were rote repeats of the routine every White House hopeful performs in Miami: cafe cubano at the Versailles restaurant followed by equally caffeinated bellowing about his anti-Castro bona fides and the Cuba-policy cowardice of his opponent, in this case Obama. President Franklin Roosevelt “didn’t talk with Hitler,” McCain argued, attacking Obama’s recent suggestion that if elected President he would open a dialogue with communist Cuba’s leader, Raul Castro, as well as leaders of other hostile nations such as Iran.

The McCain mambo, not surprisingly, got robust applause at the town hall meeting he addressed. But outside those walls the response was more subdued. If McCain is vulnerable to the charge that his presidency would effectively be a Bush third term, he might want to explore Florida beyond the echo chamber of the older Cuban exile community. He’s likely to find a growing number of younger, more moderate Cuban-Americans who no longer believe the 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba will topple the Castro regime and who yearn to hear candidates discuss matters besides Cuba, like the alarming lack of accessible health care among Latinos. “Waving the bloody shirt of anti-Castro politics is going to be less effective” in this election, says political analyst Dario Moreno of Florida International University in Miami. “The Cuba issue is losing its saliency.”

Even moderate Cuban-Americans want to see the Castros gone and democracy returned to their ancestral island. But most resent President Bush’s policy of letting them visit their relatives in Cuba only once every three years (although Bush announced on Wednesday that he’ll allow Americans to send cell phones to Cubans now that Raul Castro has permitted his citizens to own them). And when recent surveys show that even a majority of Miami Cubans, of all people, favor relaxing the restrictions — in an FIU poll 55% backed unlimited travel to Cuba — it’s probably time for U.S. politicians to drop the one-string embargo banjo and pick up a new instrument for effecting change across the Florida Straits.

That’s especially true when you look at what’s happening in the three major Miami… READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

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