Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Es Una Problema

Florida could be a tough nut for the Democrats this time around, and not just because the voting machines won’t leave a paper trail. According to this article from Slate by Ann Louise Bardach, John Kerry has to walk a very fine line in courting all the generations of the Cuban community; the old guard going back to the Bay of Pigs, the Marielistas from 1980, and the following generation of young entrepreneurs whose only connection with Cuba is the dose of cafe con leche they get every morning. They’re a mixed group politically and passionate about their causes. That makes it tough for any new candidate on the scene nationally, and Kerry’s voting record on issues close to the heart of the Cuban community isn’t clear-cut. Add to that the small detail that the governor is the brother of the current White House occupant and the state legislature is controlled by some of the more autocratic members of the Republican party and you have a pretty solid foundation of presumptive support for the Republican ticket.

But it’s not that cut and dried. Recent polls show George W. Bush and John Kerry running very close in the Sunshine State. Why? Well, while the Cuban community may be vocal and have a strong anti-Castro / pro-embargo presence in Congress from Miami-Dade (the Diaz-Balart family has Mario and Lincoln in Congress, both of whom are advocating giving Fidel the Saddam rush and terminating any contacts between the exile community and families back in Cuba), their numbers are not overwhelming on a state-wide level. Once you get up into Broward and the counties to the north between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, you find a large contingent of the older and more traditional Democratic base; retirees who are concerned about Social Security and Medicare and younger voters who are concerned about issues such as the environment, gay rights, and the economy. And if recent polls in places like Gainesville and Jacksonville – usually considered to be traditionally Southern in voting – are to be believed, Kerry is finding a base in the veterans and young professionals who are moving there for the high-tech and entertainment industries.

Both Bush and Kerry have to balance themselves carefully. So far Bush has the slight advantage in that he has a strong Republican machine in place and Governor Jeb! hasn’t become the quite the caricature his brother has (although he’s working on it), but it isn’t a lock for sure. After all, it came down to less than 600 votes in 2000, and that was without counting all the votes.