Press Memorandum: John Kerry Attracting More Cuban Voters

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Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

Memorandum to the Press 04.78


Word Count: 2200

Wednesday, 27 October 2004


John Kerry Attracting More Cuban Voters

• A new poll published by the National Democrat Network (NDN) suggests that President George W. Bush’s support among Florida's right-wing Cuban-Americans is significantly eroding.

• Senator John Kerry has sought to attract more Cuban-American voters by toughening his language against Castro and attacking Bush on the highly unpopular travel ban and cap on remittances that his administration implemented in July.

• Kerry is hoping to capitalize on recent trends suggesting that the Cuban-American base in Florida is gradually experiencing an ideological realignment towards the Democratic Party.

• The Democratic candidate’s “Statement of Principles on Cuba” illustrates a telling divide between him and his opponent on issues important to Little Havana, and suggests that Kerry would lift the family travel ban and remittances cap upon taking office.

A poll published in September by the National Democrat Network (NDN), a Washington-Based 527 political organization, suggests that the Cuban-American vote in Florida will not be as slanted towards George W. Bush as it was four years ago. As a result, both President Bush and Senator John Kerry are scrambling to energize support among Cuban-American voters in the crucial swing state. Bush, who received 82 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida in 2000 (a state which he won by a paltry 537 votes), is losing his stranglehold on the state’s Cuban-American base. The NDN poll shows that, overall, 72 percent of Cuban-American voters favor Bush, 19 percent back Kerry and 9 percent are still undecided in the run up to election. Underscoring this fact, The Guardian of London reported on October 5 that Kerry is attracting majorities of key Cuban-American groups. For example, 58 percent of U.S. born Cuban-Americans favor Kerry over Bush, and immigrants who arrived in Miami after the Mariel boat lift of 1980 favor Kerry by 11 percentage points. The data from the NDN poll suggests the Senator could succeed in attracting a significant number of Florida’s Cuban-Americans to the Democratic column on November 2. This has accelerated efforts by both campaigns to court Cuban voters, and has even led John Kerry to reach out to hard-line anti-Castro voters who are discouraged by the misguided pandering of the current president.

Kerry toughens his language on Castro
With new data indicating that the Democratic candidate might be able to make significant gains amongst Cuban-Americans in the election, some of Kerry’s advisors have recently encouraged the Senator to toughen his language on
Cuba. In a reaction to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s slip that Castro poses a “diminished threat” to the United States since the end of the Cold War, Kerry offered a rebuttal that could have been taken out of the Clinton playbook, attempting to move to Bush’s right in bashing Havana. Regarding Powell’s statement, Kerry charged back, “[it is] shocking that the Bush administration is telling the world that Fidel Castro no longer poses a problem for this hemisphere. Fidel Castro is a tyrant who brutally oppresses the Cuban people […] Castro's Cuba is the last bastion of communism in our region and a major obstacle to the triumph of democracy in this hemisphere.” This statement, to date Kerry’s most extreme remark about Castro, was aimed at attracting disgruntled hard-line Miamians disillusioned by Bush’s policy on Cuba. In response to Kerry’s rejoinder, Powell claimed that his words were taken out of context, and told the Knight Ridder news organization on October 8, that Castro has “never stopped being a problem” for the hemisphere. When asked about the incident, a State Department official refused to speak about Powell’s comments, telling COHA that the “Secretary’s comments stand for themselves.”

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This analysis was prepared by David Oppenheim, COHA Research Associate.

October 27, 2004

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