We had previously discussed that Arab American voters, supporters of Bush in 2000, were abandoning the President in key swing states.
A parallel situation has been developing amongst Cuban-American voters in Florida, according to a recent survey of 1,807 Cuban-Americans conducted Jan. 30 through March 16 by Florida International University in partnership with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and NBC 6, and included registered voters and non-voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points:
“A recent poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, only 58.4 percent of registered voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Bush in November. About one-quarter said they were undecided, with the rest saying they probably would not or definitely would not vote to re-elect the president . . .
Several silver linings for the White House are found in the poll results. Bush’s support is strongest, between 63.1 and 66.1 percent, among Cuban-Americans who arrived in the United States before 1975. That group includes older exiles who are more likely to vote. Interviews with respondents showed that many still feel Bush is their best alternative.”
The situation, from the incumbent’s viewpoint, is somewhat worrisome: This time, there is no “Elián factor to draw angry Cuban voters into the GOP fold;” From little Havana’s point of view, this race will be fought on the incumbent’s record. And while the President is very likely to win over a majority of Florida’s Cuban voters, it may not be an overwhelming majority:
“Democratic Party strategists now believe that if Sen. John Kerry can raise the Cuban exile vote for his party to 25 percent or 30 percent — a realistic goal, considering that President Bill Clinton got 36 percent of the Cuban exile vote in 1996 — he could carry Florida, and get a good shot at winning the national election. After all, Bush won Florida by only 537 votes in the past election, they note.
Miami Herald columnist Michael Putney thinks the number scould be even more severe:
“Recent polls say that President Bush is in trouble with Cuban-American voters. The polls are interesting but fairly meaningless: The Cuban vote is Bush’s to lose. My gut feeling is that this November, as in 2000, Bush will get most of it. The only question is: Will he get 80 percent, as he did four years ago, or about 60 percent, as a new poll indicates? The difference could swing the election in Florida.”
Consider that Florida has over 400,000 Cuban-American voters. If Putney is correct — if the President takes “only” 60% of the Cuban American vote, versus the 80% four of years ago — that represents a potential swing of 80,000 votes.
Putney also observes that Bush’s problem with Cuban-American voters is “one largely of his own making. He is the victim of rising expectations, which he is responsible for raising. Like every Republican since Ronald Reagan, Bush has come to Miami numerous times and thundered, “Cuba, sí; Castro, no!” But after four decades of such talk, Cuban Americans want to see some action.”
When I tell you this race gets more interesting by the day, I am not fooling around . . .
UPDATE: April 27, 2004 11:58am
Slate has an interesting follow up: Kerry’s Cuban Problem
Cubans’ support for Bush declines, South Florida poll shows
By Rafael Lorente
Sun-Sentinel March 21 2004
Cuban-American vote is Bush’s to lose
Miami Herald, Mar. 24, 2004
Bush, Kerry will fight for Cuban-American vote
Miami Herald, Mar. 11, 2004
Elian swings Cuban voters back to GOP
After backing Clinton, Cuban-American voters are ready to punish Democrats for the Gonzalez situation
St. Petersburg Times, November 5, 2000
Kerry’s Cuban Problem
By Ann Louise Bardach
Slate, April 26, 2004, at 3:32 PM PT