Latino Battleground in Florida

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThere is no question that Florida is one of the key battle states in the upcoming presidential election. This was the key state that decided the election in 2000, and there is little question that it will have an influence in this election. Just as key in the election are the two rpimciple Latino groups in Florida—the Cuban Americans and the Puerto Ricans. Cuban Americans account for 32.1 percent of all the Latino voters in the state, and Puerto Ricans account for 28.4 percent of all Latino voters in the state. Cuban Americans are largely Republican, while Puerto Ricans are largely Democrat. Cuban Americans have had a long established presence in Florida, while the Puerto Ricans have been making their presence known as more Puerto Ricans move to the state. An estimated 24 percent of Latino voters in Florida have ancestry that came from Mexico and Central and South America. Many of these voters are pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

But in a down economy, the odds may begin to favor the Republicans. Many Cuban American and Puerto Rican businesses are hurting, and with a still fairly high unemployment rate, most Cuban Americans and maybe Puerto Ricans might vote Republican. However, the Republicans in a number of ways have shot themselves in the foot early on with having a very inflexible stand on immigration. This may cause not only many Puerto Ricans but many Latino voters of Central and South American origin to vote Democrat. Interestingly enough, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had to soften his anti-immigration rhetoric in order to win voters among Latinos not only in Florida but in other key states like California, Texas, and Nevada. But jobs, poverty and the economy remain the big burner issues, and many Latinos, like so many Americans, are more interested in which candidate they think will be able to turn the country around.

This is leaving many voters, regardless of which political party they belong to, wondering which candidate they should pick. Whichever candidate can be the most persuasive may indeed get the majority of the Latino vote. Or it is possible that economic conditions may be the deciding factor that will determine who will be president. No matter who will be elected, the Latino vote in Florida is one vote that neither Romney nor current U.S. President Barack Obama can ignore. They will pull out all of the stops and do what it takes to get the majority of the Latino vote in Florida. In an election that may prove too close, every vote this time will count.

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