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The Cuban Vote In Florida

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Latino vote is often discussed as if it's one thing. But most elections show us anything but that. We're going to look at two places where the Latino vote was crucial, one where it swung towards Democrats and another where it may have pushed the Republicans over the finish line. We begin in Florida where much of the coverage has been about the recounts that are underway. And while the results aren't final yet, we do know something about how the Cubans voted there. In the governor's race, for instance, Republican Ron DeSantis won twice as many votes as Democrat Andrew Gillum in Miami-Dade County's most Cuban precincts. Fernand Amandi, a Cuban-American pollster based in Miami, says that Democrats had hoped to move what has been a traditionally Republican group toward their side.

FERNAND AMANDI: What we've seen over the years is an evolution. What used to be a monolithically, almost singlehanded base vote for the Republican Party has opened up in recent years where you see more and more Cuban Americans and second-generation and third-generation U.S.-born Cuban-Americans pulling the lever for Democrats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that had given Democrats some hope in recent elections. But what we saw this election is, in Miami-Dade's most Cuban precincts, Ron DeSantis won twice as many votes as the Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum - 66 percent to 33 percent. And that's leading some to say that the Cuban vote came out strongly on the right this time.

AMANDI: It sure did. And we also saw that phenomenon in pre-election polling. And you find that Puerto Ricans and non-Cuban Hispanics overwhelmingly supported the Democratic candidates in this election. It's the Cuban community that, this time around, went in stronger numbers for both the DeSantis and Rick Scott. And interestingly enough, they are the only Hispanic electorate in all of the United States that gives high marks to President Donald Trump, at least in Florida. And I think you can make a very strong case that, this time around, it could very well be in an election that's going to be probably decided by less than 60,000 votes in either case for governor and senator that the Cuban-American vote made the difference.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I've seen a lot of discussion about why the Cuban-American block this particular time came out so strongly in favor of DeSantis but also Rick Scott. Some have suggested that race could've played a role in it. This was a highly racialized election. Others have said it's because Andrew Gillum was portrayed as a far-left progressive and linked to socialist policies. And this group is fiercely anticommunist.

AMANDI: You know, I think those may have been variables that may have impacted on the margins. But I think fundamentally what you saw more than anything else is all politics is local. And it was obvious that the Republican candidates made a very concerted effort to go after and cultivate the Cuban vote. And I think the confirmation of that was when DeSantis himself appointed a Cuban-American woman to his ticket. He chose to run with Jeanette Nunez, who was a former Florida legislator, just to underscore the important role that they felt Cuban-Americans would play in the campaign.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what's your autopsy of the Cuban vote in Florida?

AMANDI: Well, I think the autopsy's very simple. In the past, Democrats have shown that, when they run comprehensive campaigns, they tend to do better and, in fact, win. This was made clear by Barack Obama in 2012 when he ran what, to my judgment, was the most comprehensive, detailed and attention-focused effort going after not only Cuban voters but Puerto Rican voters and the other Hispanic voters in the state. And in his case, it actually provided the margin of victory that helped him carry Florida's 27 electoral votes in the 2012 election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Fernand Amandi. He's the president of Bendixen & Amandi, a communications firm that specializes in public opinion, research-based in Florida. Thank you so much.

AMANDI: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.