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Florida Latino Support Divided in US Presidential Election

  • Brian Padden

In the upcoming U.S. presidential election, national polls indicate Latino-Americans overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Latino support in the key state of Florida, however, is more divided.

Most of the Cuban-Americans playing dominos in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood came to this country as political refugees to escape Fidel Castro's communist regime. As the largest Latino group in Florida, they are a strong political force in the state, and most tend to vote Republican, the party they see as more fiscally conservative and anti-Castro.

Like the majority of Cuban-Americans, Armando Alba said he strongly supports Mitt Romney for president.

“I believe he will lift the spirit of the nation and return us to the tradition, to the values of this nation of liberty and democracy. We do not need help or redistribution from anyone,” said Alba.

But a significant minority of Cuban-American voters like Raoul Martinez said they will vote for Obama.

“Things were really bad when he took office. It is still bad, but it was much worse before,” said Martinez.

While Romney may be leading among Cuban-Americans statewide, some polls have the president ahead by a small margin among all Latinos in Florida.

That is because the number of non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida has grown significantly.

Jessenia Fernandez, with the non-partisan civic group Florida Immigrant Coalition, works to help new citizens understand their rights and exercise their votes. Fernandez said most of these new Latino voters overwhelmingly support Obama, in part because he endorses the so-called "Dream Act" to legalize the status of several million undocumented youth.

Peruvian-American Juana Sopline de Rojas said immigration reform is the motivating issue for her in this election.

"So that they can get out of this, so that they can study. So that Latinos can study and then after they can get their papers, [their legal status]," said de Rojas.

In trying to get new voters for both parties to the polls, Fernandez says voters who are undecided about whom they support may not vote at all.

“Those are the people who are not that enthusiastic about this election. They are kind of like “iffy" [not sure]. They are [thinking], 'I do not know if I am going to vote for this person or that person.' But if they already have in their minds that they are going to vote, they already know who they are voting for and they are enthusiastic about it,” said Fernandez.

In Florida, the growing number of non-Cuban Latinos help give Democrats an advantage in numbers of registered voters. But most polls either give Romney a slight edge or say the race is too close to call.

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