Cuban-Americans Flipped to Obama? Not Quite

The Census Bureau reports Hispanic population at the zip code level (actually zip code Tabulation Areas). They also offer granularity about Hispanics in measured areas such as, in this case, the percent of the population who are Cuban in background. So I proceeded to find the top ten proportionately Cuban zip codes in Miami-Dade County according to the Census. The logic is that the closer to 100% Cubans represent in an area, the more pure of a read we'll get as to how Cubans voted.

I then obtained a list of Miami-Dade County’s precincts from the Elections Department and isolated the ones located in the 10 Cuban zip codes; there are 111 of them.

When aggregated, Mitt Romney won these 111 precincts 58.5% to 41%. This is in a county Obama won 67.6% to 37.9%.

According to the Census, the population of these 10 zip codes is 92% Hispanic and 70.4% Cuban Hispanics. It can be easily argued that non-Cuban Hispanics brought down Mitt Romney’s numbers in these precincts, since non-Cubans statewide (and nationwide for that matter) went for Obama in a big way. We can deduce therefore that 58.5% is a floor or the minimum amount of support that Romney got from Cubans in these zip codes.

Note that there are precincts in Miami-Dade (with significant numbers of registered voters), such as precinct 390 in the very Cuban Miami Lakes area, that went as high as 74% voting for Romney. Without doing an extraordinary amount of math, one can see that true Cuban support for Romney probably was somewhere in the mid to low 60s, a clear win for the Republican but somewhat less than other GOP candidates in the past. I did a similar analysis four years ago and estimated McCain’s support to be just shy of 70% among Cuban-Americans.

Then there’s the work of real political scientists like Dr. Dario Moreno and Dr. Kevin Hill of Florida International University. They conducted “an ecological regression of large Cuban precincts in Miami-Dade County and found that the Cuban-Americans voted for Romney 58% to 42%. This is very close to my "floor" for Romney.

So the news appears mixed. Clearly Romney won among Cuban-Americans, but apparently with a less dominating margin than previous GOP candidates. The deterioration of support probably wasn’t enough to make a difference in Florida, but should be troubling to the Republican Party.

Romney campaigned hard in south Florida, but I don’t think he ever connected well with many Cuban voters. In 2007 he made an embarrassing gaffe while addressing Cuban-Americans, inadvertently using a communist slogan favored by Fidel. Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, was also once opposed to the embargo based on a libertarian argument that free trade frees people (an argument that Cubans might agree with, except for the fact that they know trade with Cuba is not free since the government dominates 90% of the economy in that country). Add Romney’s ground game troubles, and perhaps we can explain some of the fall-off.

Can Florida Cubans return to previous levels of support for GOP presidential candidates? I think so, particularly if Marco Rubio is at the top of ticket. In the same 111 precincts in which Romney obtained 58.5% of the vote, Rubio got 65% in his 2010 Senate run.