Obama Might Have Been the First Democrat to Win Florida's Cuban Vote

For decades Cuban-Americans have been one of the Republican party's most reliable bases in Florida. Well, maybe not anymore. Some exit poll analysis suggests that Barack Obama actually outperformed Mitt Romney among Cubans in Florida. While others don't show him quite pulling off that historic demographic upset, they do paint him as coming really, really close.

Fox News exit polls show that Obama won 49 percent of the Cuban vote to Mitt Romney's 47 percent. The Pew Hispanic Center also cites those same numbers.

Other exit polls show Obama captured 47 percent of the vote to Romney's 50 percent. That 47 percent numbers comes from exit polls cited by both The Miami Herald and The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight.

Reuters cites exit polls that show a smaller but still surprising 40 percent of Florida's Cuban vote for Obama. (We should note that The Sun-Sentinel claims that, "70 percent of Cuban Americans in Florida voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to some exit polls." We just can't find those exit polls, or any one else citing them.)

Update: Local pollster Sergio Bendixen's exit polling shows that Romney beat Obama 52-58. However, Obama lead Romney by a huge percentage among Cuban American who were born in the US, 60 to 40. Those who were born in Cuba preferred Romney 55-45. Romney also won the Cuban vote in absentee and early voting, but Obama won on election day voting. 

Either way, the results are historic. Bill Clinton set the previous mark for best performance by a Democrat in modern elections among Florida's Cubans in 1996. He notched up just 35 percent.

Obama's inroads with Cubans also explain other electoral differences between 2008 and 2012. This year he won heavily Cuban Miami-Dade by 62 percent, a four point improvement over his 58 percent mark here in 2008.

In all, 62 percent of all of Florida's Hispanic voters chose Obama this year, compared to just 57 percent last time.

The milestone coincides with Miami-Dade sending its first Cuban-American Democrat, Joe Garcia, to the U.S. House (though, about anyone could and should have won against scandal-embroiled incumbent David Rivera).

"The dam has finally burst in the long-awaited Cuban shift," pollster Fernan Amandi told The Sun-Sentinel. "It's a sea change."

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