How will Cuban Americans vote in Republican Presidential primary?
Posted: 15 December 2007 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]
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By WILLIAM MARCH The Tampa Tribune

Cuban-American political leaders in Florida are dividing their support among the candidates in the Republican presidential primary.

If Cuban-American voters follow their lead, it means no candidate will benefit from cohesive backing of one of the most powerful GOP voting blocs in the state.

That’s good news for Florida front-runner Rudy Giuliani, who’s also ahead among the state’s Hispanic Republicans, according to some polls.

It’s a situation similar to the state’s religious and social conservatives, who also have divided their support among the candidates rather than uniting.

Florida’s roughly 300,000 Cuban-Americans typically make up 10 percent of the voters in a GOP primary, a potentially decisive group that has swung primaries in the past.

All three leading primary candidates - Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney - have been competing for months for the backing of prominent Florida Cubans, and can lay claim to several.

McCain, for example, is backed by Florida’s three Cuban-American Congress members, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, all from the Miami area.

Romney’s Florida co-chairman is Al Cardenas, a prominent Miami Cuban, former state Republican Party chairman and key ally of Jeb and George Bush.

Giuliani lists endorsements of several Miami-area elected officials, including Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and several state House members.

As of this week, Mike Huckabee, whose late surge in early primary states has put him in the top tier of candidates, joined the club. State House Speaker Marco Rubio endorsed him Monday, as did Rubio ally and fellow Miami state Rep. David Rivera.

Florida’s most prominent Cuban political figure, Sen. Mel Martinez, remains neutral so far, and won’t say whether he’ll take a side.

Rivera said he expects Cuban-Americans will unite behind the Republican nominee after the primary.

Cardenas said it’s not remarkable that Florida Cubans are dividing in the closely fought primary. “The rest of the country is, too.”

Cubans’ Voting Bloc

But Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political scientist and an expert on Hispanic voting, said Florida Cubans “typically vote as a bloc, even in Republican primaries.”

When they do, he said, they can change the outcome, as in the 2004 U.S. Senate primary between Martinez and Bill McCollum. Martinez won with a big margin in Dade County, home of Florida’s Cuban community and most Florida Hispanic Republicans.

Cubans also united behind Bob Dole in the 1996 GOP primary and behind both the Bush brothers, Moreno said.

Moreno said polls show about 70 percent of Florida’s Hispanic Republicans favor Giuliani, whom he said, “has a lot in common with Cuban-Americans, including Catholicism. He has a lot of affinity in this community.”

Cubans don’t tend to be social conservatives and aren’t concerned about Giuliani’s moderate to liberal stands on gun control, gay rights and abortion, Moreno said.

There has been speculation that Martinez would back McCain. Both took controversial stands in favor of last year’s immigration reform proposal, unpopular with the GOP base. It would have allowed “earned citizenship” for illegal immigrants.

Both suffered political damage as result, but said they took the stand on principle.

Martinez has said, however, that if he does take sides in the primary, he won’t decide solely on the immigration issue.

Castro, Cuba Play Role In Voting

Rubio, a Cuban-American who is a social conservative, cited Huckabee’s strong anti-abortion stance as one of the chief reasons for his support.

Huckabee was embarrassed when primary competitor Fred Thompson, on the night before the endorsement, released news stories recounting that Huckabee in 2002 called for ending the trade embargo against Cuba. Miami Cubans consider the embargo sacred.

Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas, said in a letter to President Bush that the embargo has failed to dislodge Fidel Castro and even strengthened his hold on power.

But Huckabee now says he took the stance only at the behest of the state’s rice-growing industry, for which Cuba could be a major customer, and has changed his mind.

Rubio and Rivera said Huckabee changed his views on Cuba after talking with Floridians, including themselves.

Rubio said Huckabee has promised to back three of the Cuban exile community’s strongest political wishes:

•Vetoing any weakening of the embargo.

•Seeking indictment of Castro’s brother, Raul Castro, in the deaths of three “Brothers to the Rescue” pilots shot down in 1996 by Cuban military planes.

•Fully enforcing the Helms-Burton Act on U.S. property expropriated after Castro’s revolution. Presidents Bush and Clinton have waived the act’s harsher provisions, including allowing lawsuits in U.S. courts against companies anywhere in the world that possess such property, and excluding officials of those companies from entry to the United States.

Most of the other candidates haven’t been explicit about the Helms-Burton question, though some, including Giuliani, have said they favor indicting the Castros.

But Moreno said Cuba policy isn’t the decisive questions even for the exile community. “All the Republican candidates have good anti-Castro credentials, and so does Hillary Clinton, for that matter.”

Reporter William March can be reached at (813) 259-7761 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Posted: 16 December 2007 12:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Really does not matter. Because the Democrats have boycotted Florida , they have ceded the state to the Republicans next November , regardless of who gets the nominations of the two parties

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Posted: 16 December 2007 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Interesting. Must be more to it that the Cuban Americans?

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Posted: 14 January 2008 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Cuban Americans are planting seeds of resentment amongst conservatives.  Instead of siding with the English only movement, they are siding with illegal aliens.  Also, Cuban Americans aren’t making any effort to build a good relationship with social conservatives.  This is going to cost them clout in the GOP.

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