Could Donald Trump Turn Miami-Dade Even Bluer?

Could Donald Trump Turn Miami-Dade Even Bluer?

Everyone knows Cuban-Americans in Miami vote Republican. That's been common knowledge for years. After all, 70 percent of that demographic voted for George W. Bush in 2000. 

Sure, Miami-Dade is, in most cases, a reliably blue county, but Democrats win here by margins slimmer than those of our neighbors. If we voted for Democrats at the same rate as Broward or Palm Beach, well, Florida wouldn't be a swing state anymore. It's local Cubans' traditional support of the GOP that helps keeps Florida purple. 

Of course, political-scientist types have noticed that support among Cubans in South Florida for Republicans has been slowly declining. They've chalked it up to generational change. Younger and newly arrived Cubans aren't quite as strongly Republican as the original exiles. The GOP's shift to the socially conservative positions of white evangelical voters has accelerated the trend. 

Again, that change is slow and gradual. 

Yet we're looking at a political storm named Donald Trump that could speed that shift. And  that Hurricane Donald is blowing through right as America begins to normalize relations with Cuba. 

Turns out Miami Republicans aren't wild about Trump. He won every other county in Florida except Dade. In fact, he lost the county by a huge, 41 percent margin. According to exit polls, only 17 percent of Cubans statewide have voted for Trump. Sure, that might have something to do with the fact that the winner here, Marco Rubio, is a Miami-born Cuban-American. 

But there are other big differences between Trump and Rubio besides their ethnicity. — not the least of which is their policy toward Cuba. 

Trump is "fine" with opening relations with Cuba. He just thinks Obama should have made a better deal. Of course he does. 

He also thinks the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy for Cubans should be halted, which means Cubans too would then be subjected to whatever draconian immigration policies Trump pursues. He can't build a wall across the Florida Straits (Raúl Castro wouldn't have enough money to pay for it anyway), but he could ramp up patrols. Lord knows he might not mind a Trump-branded resort and casino in Havana either. 

Of course, Cubans-Americans vote for more than just Cuban policy, but the writing is on the wall on those other issues as well. 

In presidential primaries, Cuban-Americans tend to vote largely for the more mainstream, moderate option (McCain, Romney, and now Rubio). Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, Cuban-Americans Republicans, are two of the more moderate GOP reps in the U.S. House. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart might be a bit more conservative, but he's hardly an extreme right-wing guy.

In the Florida Senate this year, it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who single-handedly killed two extreme gun laws backed by the NRA. He experienced some pushback from his party, but not much locally. Then there are scores of local Cuban Republican officials who are generally in favor of gay rights, generally believe climate change is real, and generally support a legal path to immigration. 

It's also not good news for Trump that the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution 9-0 in July condemning him. Rep. Curbelo still can't seem to shake the idea that Trump is a secret Democrat operative. Appearing on MSNBC earlier this month, Ros-Lehtinen pretty much shut down, blocked out reality, and refused to believe that Donald Trump will get the nomination

So there's not much love here for Trump among Cuban-Americans, but if given a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, how will they vote? 

Well, there's no hard-core data on the subject right now. It certainly doesn't seem, however, that with Rubio out of the race, many are jumping on the Trump train. 

There've been a handful of anecdotal articles about Miami's Cubans who actually like Trump, but on former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle's local politics blog, Political Cortadito, reports that a significant number of local Republicans might cross to the Dem side, at least for this election

"It will be because of people like my mother and father and their friends," she writes. "These are staunch Republicans, ultra-conservative Cuban-American GOP loyalists who remember the good old Ronald Reagan days with longing and voted for Sen. Marco Rubio, who came in a distant embarrassing second in his home state of Florida. My godmother has never voted for a Democrat in her life. But they say they will vote for Hillary precisely because of Donald Trump.

"They are the poster children of the #NeverTrump movement."

Trump represents a clear break from the Republican party as usual. It's not surprising to think he might not bring every voter along with him. 

Though, there's something larger at play for the Republicans. 

In 2013, party leaders got together and decided that to ensure the long-term success of the party, they needed to find ways to attract more support among minorities. A politician like Marco Rubio was supposed to be the poster child for such an effort. 

Trump, meanwhile, is doing the exact opposite. In fact, instead of attracting more minority support to the party, he might actually end up losing one of the few groups that used to solidly support it: Miami's Cuban-Americans. At least for this election.


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