Cuban-American Voting Trends

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
An excellent analysis by the Swing State Project:

Obama won the five boroughs of New York City by 59%: a 4 to 1 margin. He won Cook County (Chicago) by 53%, with more than three-fourths of the vote. In contrast, Obama took 58% of Miami-Dade county - less than the amount by which he won New York City. The 2008 Democratic performance in Miami is comparable to their performance in cities such as Dallas (57% of the vote) and Sacramento (58% of the vote).

Much of this is due to the Cuban vote, the city's largest demographic group. Refugees from Castro's Cuba, staunchly anti-Communist, and faithful Republicans ever since the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Cubans vote as strongly Republican as Jews vote Democratic. In 2000, George W. Bush won about four out of five Cubans, helped by Cuban anger over Al Gore's role in the Elian Gonzalez affair. In 2008 Obama won around 35% of their vote, based on exit polls. This was the best performance of a Democrat with Cubans in recent memory.

Their influence ensures that Miami remains a competitive, Democratic-leaning city. Democrats usually end up winning it, but their margins are severely cut. And occasionally it will turn up in the Republican column - as happened during the 2004 Senate race. There, Mel Martinez, a Bush ally, won Miami-Dade on his way to a one percent victory.

Democrats often hopefully comment that demographic shifts will slowly move Cubans leftward, as a new generation of Cubans, less concerned with Castro and communism, replaces their more militant elders. Perhaps. But that process will be the work of decades, not a single election cycle. For the moment the Cuban vote remains strongly Republican.

In 2008 the Democrats challenged two entrenched, Republican congressmen in South Florida: the Cuban Diaz-Balart brothers. The races were closely watched, so much that the New York Times Magazine aired an article dedicated to them. In the end, both Republicans won by margins larger than expected. Their continuing presence points to the steadfastness of the Cuban Republican vote.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the year, some political analysts have vaticinated that President Obama's numbers can only go up amongst Cuban-American voters.

That's far from the truth.

President Obama's 2008 performance of 35% amongst Cuban-Americans tied Bill Clinton's 1996 electoral performance, which came on the heels of his signing of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD Act).

However, just four years later, as a result of the events surrounding Elian Gonzalez, Democratic nominee Al Gore received less than 20% of the Cuban-American vote.

A significant drop.

President Obama has -- thus far -- honored his campaign promise of easing family travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans, while maintaining trade and travel sanctions on the Castro regime until it unconditionally releases political prisoners, embraces human rights and undertakes democratic reforms.

We hope he keeps this promise.