Friday, November 11, 2016

Cuba policy and the 2016 election in Florida

"Soon someone will come out with another push poll telling us Cuban Americans support Obama Cuba policy. Forget polls and watch the elections." - Frank Calzon, over twitter on November 8, 2016

Bay of Pigs Veterans endorsed Donald Trump
The usual suspects are trying to diminish the message sent by Cuban American voters this past Tuesday. The argument made is that Miami-Dade County went massively for Hillary Clinton and at the same time use a poll circulated by the radical National Council of La Raza called Latino Decisions to claim that Cuban Americans voted massively Democrat, but they have an ideological agenda not served by Trump doing better than expected among "Latinos." Furthermore they claim that votes for Trump were not necessarily related to Cuba policy but the facts say otherwise.

First the well respected Pew Research Center placed Latino support for Donald Trump at 29% who outperformed Mitt Romney (who got 27% in 2012). According to exit polls Trump got 54% of the Cuban American vote, but the actual vote may have been higher.

Secondly, the turn out in Miami-Dade County was due to the Hillary Clinton campaign having a fully developed Get Out the Vote Effort and infrastructure that got out more of the vote than Obama in 2012. The Trump campaign did not have that but still Donald Trump in 2016 got slightly more votes than Mitt Romney got in 2012 (333,666 vs 332,981).

However what is left out in this "analysis" is that statewide the margin that won Donald Trump Florida and the presidency was just 119,970 votes. It also ignores how critics of President Obama's Cuba policy won big in Miami-Dade County.

Donald Trump, perhaps looking at the same flawed polls claiming that Cuban Americans supported Obama's Cuba policy gave it luke warm support and in May of 2016 was polling 33% among Cuban Americans. This changed radically in mid September when Mr. Trump contrasted himself from Hillary Clinton promising to overturn Obama's Cuba policy if human rights did not improve on the island. His change on Cuba policy was welcomed by Congressman Mario Diaz - Balart.

How the Hillary Clinton campaign responded during the past two months: downplaying her anti-embargo position, a hit piece in Newsweek and putting out radio ads accusing Trump of violating the Cuban Embargo and partisans going after him with the same message on social media. This was obviously done to peel off Cuban American support. They of course ignored that President Bill Clinton in the 1990s like President Barack Obama today was encouraging businesses to explore business opportunities in Cuba, loosening economic sanctions and shook hands with a Castro.

Mr. Trump responded by doubling down and pledging his support for a free Cuba and in October he was endorsed by the Bay of Pigs Veteran Association. This was the first time in the organization's history that they had endorsed a presidential candidate. Over twitter both he and Governor Mike Pence tweeted their support for freedom in Cuba.

The Obama administration issuing a Presidential policy directive on United States-Cuba Normalization on October 14th that called for US intelligence agencies to share information with the Castro dictatorship's secret police outraged many. Add to that the failure of the Obama administration to defend current US law at the United Nations by abstaining in a vote on the Cuban embargo and repeating regime talking points angered many. By October 27, 2016 polls placed the Cuban American vote at 52% which was a 15 point shift.

There was a final factor that was death of Janet Reno on the eve of the election brought back the traumatic Elian Gonzalez episode to many Cuban Americans in Miami. On that same day Mary O'Grady asked in The Wall Street Journal: "Will Obama's Cuba Policy Lose Florida for Clinton?" and the answer a day later was, despite the claims of the anti-embargo lobby and the National Council of La Raza, was an unequivocal yes.

Obama's Cuba policy and Hillary Clinton's strident support for it were profoundly unpopular with Cuban American voters and contributed to a Trump victory in Florida on November 8th.

Like it or not the claims made by some that the Cuban American community had changed and politicians could support rapprochement with the Castro regime and not suffer on election day were wrong and contributed 29 electoral votes to President Elect Donald Trump.

Consider the following breakdown. Pew placed the number of Cuban American voters in 2012 at 771,000. The Associated Press in a video report offered a lower estimate for the Cuban American vote citing a source that said 8% of over 8 million votes in FL would be Cuban American which would total 640,000.

Using the above numbers and looking at the shift in support for Donald Trump in May 2016 when he supported Obama's Cuba policy and was getting between 33% and 37% of the Cuban American vote compared to October 2016 when he rejected the White House's Cuba policy and saw his support rise to 52%.

Lowest range of Cuban American support shifting before and after was 96,000 votes and the highest range was 146,490. The average of the two was 121,245 votes. Considering that Mr. Trump won Florida by just 119,970 and the importance of this shift in the Cuban vote over Cuba policy shows that it was decisive in delivering the 270 electoral votes.

Conclusion: Obama Cuba policy cost Hillary Clinton the White House.

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