Political

Early reaction from Florida: Biden lost ground with crucial Cuban voters

tovfla/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — ABC News is projecting President Donald Trump will win in Florida. With 96% of the expected votes now in, Trump is in the lead, with 51% of the votes, while Biden has 48%.

Early vote totals in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, show Biden underperforming when compared to Hillary Clinton’s election totals in 2016.

Political analysts on the ground saw signs of a new phenomenon: Some Hispanic voters, including the crucial Cuban constituency, are moving further away from the Democratic Party.

Florida is home to the largest concentration of Cubans outside the island nation. At this point, Biden is carrying about 54% of the vote, but four years ago, Clinton won the county with 63% of the vote.

“Biden is indeed underperforming here, and the most logical explanation is the movement on the part of Latinos, especially Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans but also other South Americans who were very susceptible to the Republican message about socialism,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor of politics and international relations at Florida International University in Miami. “Let’s wait to see what the final numbers are in this county, but at least for the moment, the big news is the Latino defection of the Democratic Party.”

A preliminary exit poll has Cuban Americans voting 55-42% for Trump — similar to in 2016. It’s among non-Cuban Hispanics where Trump is lagging in Florida, according to the preliminary exit poll results.

In Florida’s Hispanic electorate, Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans are the state’s largest Hispanic eligible voter groups. Puerto Ricans, who tend to vote Democrat, have been the state’s fastest-growing Hispanic-origin group over the past decade, according to Pew Research.

The number of Venezuelan eligible voters in the state grew by 184% from 2008 to 2018 — the fastest growth of any Latino origin group — though they still only account for 2% of all Hispanic eligible voters in the state, according to a study conducted by Pew Research.

Experts told ABC News that Republican advertising during the closing weeks of the campaign targeted the Cuban community — and some of it pushed misleading messages about Biden, they said.

Alex Penelas, former mayor of Miami-Dade County, said that the Republican strategy to “[paint] all Democrats as radical socialists definitely had an effect.”

In Florida, more than half of Cuban voters backed Trump in 2016, according to Pew Research. And, a report from Florida International University following a 2018 poll, found that 54% of Cubans in South Florida were registered as Republicans in 2018.

Yamil Velez, an assistant professor of political science at Columbia University, said he believes Democrats did not try hard enough to counter misinformation targeting Cuban communities.

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