Traditionally-conservative Cuban-Americans have become a voting powerhouse for the Democrats — with the once little-considered electoral bloc now turning squarely to the left.
That is particularly the case in Florida, where President Barack Obama took a whopping 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote, to Mitt Romney’s 52 percent, the Wall Street Journal
The figures, based on an exit poll by Obama’s Hispanic polling firm Bendixen & Amandi, are backed by a national exit poll for several media organizations that showed the president winning 49 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida.
That number is substantially higher than 2008, when Obama grabbed only 35 percent of the Sunshine State’s Cuban-American vote.
While the Cuban-American vote has traditionally favored Republican candidates, the Journal says the new numbers could spur a reshaping of U.S. policy towards Cuba.
One Cuban-American voter, Mark Blanco, told the newspaper that despite growing up in a strictly Republican family and voting for GOP candidates for years, a number of hot-button issues convinced him to cast his ballot for Obama this time.
They include support of gay marriage and abortion rights.
For years, "I just went along with the way I was brought up," Blanco said. He later realized “that was not the best decision for me."
Despite the impressive numbers for Obama, some Republicans do not believe a voting shift is under way among Cuban-Americans.
"This so-called change—I've been reading about it for 30 years," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, told the Journal.
"The community has not changed."
He pointed to continued Cuban-American support for his re-election, as well as that of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also a Miami Republican.
A number of factors are involved in the changes in the Cuban-American community, Andy Gomez, senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, told the newspaper.
The older generation of Cubans, who fled the Fidel Castro government in the 1950s and 1960s, are dying and being replaced by a younger U.S.-born generation that is more liberal, he said.
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