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BEST POLITICAL MISCALCULATION Miami 2003 - Annie Betancourts anti-embargo gambit in the race for U.S. House District 25

Here's how it (and she) went down: In October 2002 Democratic state Representative Betancourt became the first elected Cuban American in Miami-Dade County to openly oppose the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Her foe, state Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, claimed the embargo was Betancourt's only issue. It didn't matter to Diaz-Balart, a Republican, that Betancourt actually did have other issues: prescription drug benefits for the elderly, a clean environment, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars her opponent was getting from greedy special-interest groups. For a while it seemed that Diaz-Balart's only issue was his claim that Betancourt had only one issue. But like Betancourt, he had others: prescription drug benefits for the elderly, a clean environment, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he was getting from civic-minded special-interest groups. In the end Diaz-Balart crushed Betancourt 65 percent to 35 percent (74,424 votes to 40,438). Three months after Betancourt's loss, a Schroth opinion poll provided an explanation: A majority of Cubans in Broward and Miami-Dade still support the embargo 60 to 28 percent. But the survey also confirmed Betancourt's assertion that U.S.-Cuba policy is "incoherent." In her campaign she had noted that "some of the same people" who support the embargo also travel regularly to Cuba and each year send hundreds of millions of dollars to friends and relatives there. Indeed the poll found 47 percent in favor of lifting travel restrictions, while 46 were against and 7 undecided. But most important, Betancourt's stand broke the embargo on debating the embargo in a real live Miami-Dade political campaign.

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