Ex-Republican Charlie Crist, now running as a Democrat for his old job as Florida governor, is considering a visit to Cuba this summer to help improve relations with the Communist island neighbor, the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald reported.
Crist has made Cuba an issue in trying to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is courting South Florida’s large, conservative-leaning Cuban-American population in his re-election effort.
The exiles, as a group, have traditionally backed the U.S. embargo against Cuba and opposed political or economic ties with the Communist regime that prompted their flight to America.
But polling suggests attitudes towards Cuba, even in South Florida, are softening.
Crist, who supported the embargo as a Republican, broadcast his reversal in February on an episode of HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher."
"From a selfish point of view as a Floridian, I’d like to see that happen because a lot of construction would be required on the island, and South Florida could be the launching pad for all of that and really create some jobs for the people of my state," Crist told Maher.
"The embargo has done nothing in fifty years to change the regime in Cuba or end the suffering of the Cuban people," Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate told the Times
. "Gov. Crist is exploring every opportunity to help bring economic freedom and democracy to the people of Cuba."
One Republican political consultant, David Johnson, took to Twitter to call the gesture purely political: "Nixon goes to China, Charlie goes to Pander."
"Still," Adam C. Smith, the political editor of the Times wrote, "Crist's advocacy for lifting the embargo is risky and could motivate Republican exiles in Miami-Dade to turn out in November to defeat him."
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