In Spanish we would say that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders metió la pata or put his foot in it.
There he was on 60 Minutes praising Fidel Castro for his literacy program. Next thing you know he’ll be wearing a Ché Guevara tee shirt. But it would be best if he didn’t wear it in Florida.
In fact, maybe he should skip Florida because he may have lost one of the most coveted swing states, one that boasts 248 total Democratic delegates and 29 electoral votes.
Florida’s diverse Latino population – one of every four people in Florida is Latino – consists primarily of Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Florida is home to the highest concentration of Cubans in the United States, specifically South Florida counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach
For many years, Cubans have camped in the Republican tent, but they voted for Barack Obama twice, in 2008 and 2012, before swinging to Donald Trump in 2016. Trump won Florida by the thinnest of margins – 113,000 votes or one percentage point – thanks in part to the Cuban vote.
Unlike the Puerto Rican vote, which is about two-thirds Democrat and therefore blue, the Cuban vote is purple, much like Florida, swinging from red to blue and back to red.
The reason is demographics: the Cuban voter has become more diverse, influenced by younger generations which lean Democrat. The push and pull of the Cuban vote means it has a big chance to decide the presidential election. If enough Cubans vote Democrat, they could paint Florida blue.
In a UnidosUS 2019 survey of the Latino electorate, 44 percent of Cubans said they were probably or definitely voting Democrat in 2020, compared with 37 percent who favor Trump.
That looked like a potential victory for Democrats. But Sanders just made that more difficult by praising Castro to the heavens when Castro’s five decades-long stranglehold on Cuba is the reason Florida has such a large population of Cubans.
Videos of Sanders aligning with Castro and other revolucionarios over the years are all over the internet. Anybody can find them, and 60 Minutes did. However, Sanders can no longer say that was then and this is now – which is probably what he should have said.
Instead, he made then now and continues to double down, ignoring things like firing squads after Castro triumphed, and the stagnant, impoverished state of Cuba today despite the doctors and teachers it sends to other nations such as Venezuela.
Sanders’ affinity for Cuba is also likely to have an adverse effect on Venezuelans, who although a smaller percentage of Florida’s Latino electorate, make up an increasing number of Sunshine State immigrants due to that nation’s totalitarian regime and failed economy.
The GOP will continue to plaster labels such as “socialist” or “communist” on Bernie Sanders’ forehead along with a copy of the 60 Minutes interview, scaring off Latino voters. Sanders may not win the Florida Democratic primary on March 17. And if by chance Sanders is the Democratic nominee, he may not win Florida, which often paves the road to the White House. Which means Florida stays red.
Like I said, metió la pata.
˜˜María Padilla, Editor