Biden, Harris make late push for Cuban American voters in Florida. Will it make a difference?

Trump won Florida in 2016 with significant help from Cuban American voters.

10/20/2020 3:10:00 PM

Trump won Florida in 2016 with significant help from Cuban American voters.

The Biden campaign made what one pollster called 'night and day difference' in its outreach to Hispanic voters in Florida, which lifted its support.

from staying at 433 hotels that it said were owned or controlled by the government or other regime insiders. In earlier moves, he prohibited cruise ships from visiting the island, banned flights to all Cuban cities except Havana, and ordered Marriott to close its Four Points Sheraton hotel in the capital city.

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Biden has promised to reverse Trump's reversal.“The administration’s approach is not working. Cuba is no closer to democracy than it was four years ago,” Biden said during his Oct. 5 visit to the state.Mora said many Cubans in Florida had warmed to Obama's diplomatic opening with Cuba but have since shifted back to favor Trump's tougher approach. A

taken over the summer found that 66 percent of Cuban Americans in Miami Dade County expressed overall support for Trump's Cuba policy, although they did not like several specific changes, including the flight and visa restrictions.'Outrageous:'

Kamala Harris tells Black leaders in Florida Trump must be removedThat poll concluded Trump could expect to get 59% of the Cuban-American vote in November. Schlapp noted that Trump has been able to win back a slice of younger Cuban Americans who drifted toward the Democrats during Barack Obama's two terms in the White House. She said that's due to Trump's hard line on Cuba, as well as his domestic policies that have rolled back regulations and cut taxes.

The FIU poll found the economy ranked as the most important policy issue among all Cuban Americans except those over 76 years old, a group that rated health care at the top of their list."Cuba policy is ranked the sixth, that is to say, last in importance, by three of the four age groupings," the

FIU researches noted.But for Ferrera, Trump's crackdown on Cuba has been personal. The Trump administration has limited Cuban Americans' ability to send money to family who still live in Cuba, which for Ferrera includes her half sister and a baby niece.

"My sister, she doesn’t have access to eyeglasses, and there’s no way for me to send glasses to her because of the restrictions on remittances," she said."The new restrictions that have been put in place, they don’t hurt the regime. They hurt the Cuban people."

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Ferrera came to Cuba with her parents when she was three years old. A relative in Miami picked them up in a boat after her father, a small businessman, was repeatedly jailed by the Castro government.Her father's transgressions? "He had a little movie theater, and he would have people come to see pirated movies from the U.S." He wasn't supposed to have a business, let alone promote anything from the United States.

"No one has to explain to me what socialism, communism or authoritarianism are. I mean, my family and I, we lived it," Ferrera said. Like so many other Cuban Americans, the life lessons of fleeing oppression and building a new life in a foreign land made her acutely aware of and engaged in politics.

A 'Never Trumper' who left the GOPWhen she was 14, she volunteered for GOP candidates in Miami. She knocked on doors, made thousands of phone calls and idolized Cuban American politicians like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a now-retired GOP congresswoman, and Sen. Marco Rubio.

"I was just so excited about what the future of the party was going to look like," she recalled.Donald Trump's 2016 campaign changed that. Ferrera says she was a"Never Trumper from Day 1" and has become disillusioned with Rubio and other Republicans. She switched her voter registration to Democrat in 2018.

In this election, she and other pro-Biden Cuban Americans helped form the Cubanos Con Biden group after becoming fed up with"socialist" and"communist" epithets that Republicans were throwing at Democrats.Mike Rivero, 30, said they felt like outliers at first. But they started a Facebook group in May, and membership swelled to 13,000 members. When they started doing caravans, they initially had 30 to 40 cars coming to pro-Biden events. Their last one, a week ago, was over 300, he said.

"The support is there. It’s building," Rivero said.Amore Rodriguez, 27, said she's been ostracized by much of her family after being raised as a"hard-core Republican" and switching parties.She only did so after some serious soul searching prompted by an online quiz she took in college during the 2016 campaign, to figure out which presidential candidate was a good fit for her beliefs.

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Ad wars:Trump, Biden shower ad money on Phoenix, Philadelphia, Florida’s I-4 corridor in final stretchShe was shocked when the results popped up: Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist."It was the biggest dissonance that I've ever experienced," Rodriguez said, adding that her first instinct was to retake the quiz."That was the first time I had to like really look in the mirror and say 'What do you actually believe in?"

Her upbringing had been all about patriotism and cherishing America's freedoms – one of which, she concluded, was forming her own opinions and expressing them."That led to a lot of arguments," Rodriguez said."My grandmother told me 'I’ve never been more ashamed of you … I used to be so proud of you'."

That still stings, Rodriguez said, but now"I’ve been creating so many connections with liberal Cubans dying to find each other."How much impact they will have remains be to be seen.But, said Ferrera, "As a former Republican, I feel at home in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ party."

Read more: USA TODAY »

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