Florida's Hispanic community is changing. Waves of new Puerto Rican, Mexican, Central and South American immigrants have made the historically powerful Cuban-American community a minority of the statewide Hispanic vote. And the Cuban-American community itself is changing, with many more post-1980 immigrants and 2nd generation American-born Cuban-Americans entering the electorate.
These changes have made the Florida Hispanic electorate much more Democratic, and much less open to the failed hard-line Cuban policies advocated by President George W. Bush and McCain. In 2006, a majority of those Hispanics who voted in Florida voted Democratic. New registration numbers from Florida show that there are now more registered Hispanic Democrats than registered Hispanic Republicans.
In a comprehensive poll of the Cuban-American community conducted by New Democrat Network in 2006, an overwhelming majority of Cuban-Americans favored negotiation with a Cuban government led by Raul Castro, and a majority of those who arrived in the United States after 1980 favored the relaxation of travel and remittance restrictions imposed by Bush and supported by McCain. The poll did not find deep support in the Cuban-American community for McCain's current Cuba policy, and there is a great deal of openness to the policy advocated by NDN and Obama that begins with the relaxation of travel and remittances to the island but does not include elimination of the embargo.
Its changing population is changing Florida's politics. McCain's reliance on a failed, hard-line policy toward Cuba will not carry the weight with a very different Florida Hispanic electorate it once did. It is an old play out of an outdated, 20th century Republican political playbook, and while it may excite a small and shrinking part of Florida's Cuban electorate, it will not be a terribly effective tool for McCain to reach the increasingly Democratic and non-Cuban Hispanic population of Florida.
For more on Cuba and the views of Cuban Americans, visit our Web site to watch video of a forum we convened to discuss what a post-Castro Cuba would look like for the United States and the rest of the world.