Florida's Hispanic Vote

Cubans and Puerto Ricans could put Jeb Bush's state in Kerry's column

The hurricanes have made Florida so confusing the pollsters can't get a decent read on what's going on. Bush is expected to take the state, but there are intriguing bits and pieces of news that suggest Kerry may be drawing support from unexpected quarters.

For one thing, the Cuban community is not locked into voting Republican as Jeb Bush thought they once were.

The Cubans are put out with Bush. He allowed several fugitives who fled to U.S. shores to be returned to Cuba and Castro justice. Attacked by right wingers in the community, Bush tried to make up for the blunder by announcing broad travel restrictions by Cuban Americans to Cuba. This angered Cubans who go back and forth to visit relatives. The BBC reports, "[P]olls show that among older Cubans, who tend to be the most hard-line, Mr. Bush's support has slipped from 82 percent—the vote he got in the last election—to 70 percent." Among Cubans born in the U.S., Kerry leads Bush, 58 to 32 percent.

Cubans are now just one of several Hispanic blocs in Florida politics. There are 3.1 million Latinos residing in the state, accounting for 14 percent of Florida's total vote. In 1996 some 72 percent voted for Clinton. In 2000, 62 percent went for Gore.

The Puerto Rican community, numbering 650,000, is fast growing and of considerable political significance. (Puerto Ricans are American citizens and have the right to vote.) Sixty percent of them voted for Gore, and they overwhelmingly supported Jeb Bush for governor. Current polls suggest Puerto Ricans are split one third for George W. Bush, one third for Kerry, and one third undecided. In a tight race, Puerto Ricans could put the state into the Kerry column.


Additional reporting: David Botti

 
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