In 2000, Cuban-Americans represented 70 percent of Florida's Hispanic electorate. Today they make up less than half that thanks to a large influx of new voters originally from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.
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Unlike Cubans, these other Latins tilt towards the Democratic Party. But this new wave of non-isn't as party loyal as counterparts in other states. As a result both parties are courting them heavily according to a new article in Newsweek, and they could play a major part on November 4.
"In theory, the changes bode well for Democrats. "Republicans are so used to using the foreign policy-related angle," appealing to Cuban-Americans by taking a hard-line stance against Fidel and Raúl Castro, says Susan MacManus, a professor at the University of South Florida. "Now they need to have a domestic message"—terrain that favors Democrats these days. If he manages to capitalize on the opportunity, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama could outdo John Kerry's performance in 2004, when the Massachusetts senator captured 44 percent of Florida's Latino vote. "If [Obama] gets 55 percent, then he would pretty much ensure winning the state," says Sergio Bendixen, a pollster for the New Democratic Network (NDN) and expert in Hispanic public opinion."
The new "Latino mix", as Newsweek calls it, also has implication in local elections. Polling has indicated that if Democrat Raul Martinez pulls off a win against incumbent Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, he'll likely do so on the strength of non-Cuban Hispanic support.