In Florida, Latino voters make up 24% of the vote
Cuban-Americans are the largest population in that group
Cuban exile Antonio Calatayud believes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio should be the country’s next president.
But even the Miami resident recognizes that Rubio, who was born and raised in Miami to Cuban immigrants, may lose his chance to be the Republican nominee if he doesn’t win his home state in Tuesday’s primary.
“If he wins Florida, he will have the opportunity (for the nomination),” Calatayud told CNN in Spanish. “If doesn’t win Florida, his chances are done for the presidency.”
But how does Calatayud’s vote – as well as votes of other Cuban-Americans – stack up in the state?
In Florida, Latino voters make up 24% of the vote – one of the largest percentages in the U.S. – with Cuban-Americans being the largest population in that group, according to a report by CNN en Español and the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies.
Cuban-American voters have a strong influence in the state as the largest faction of Latino voters, comprising 30% of the Latino electorate in 2014. And more than 80% of the total Cuban-American electorate lives in South Florida.
In a Miami neighborhood known as Little Havana, which attracts Cuban-Americans and tourists alike, most Cuban exiles told CNN that they are siding with Rubio in the presidential primaries.
Randy Espinet, a Cuban-American voter, said Rubio represents the Florida Cuban community better than presidential rival Ted Cruz, a Texas senator whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba.
“Look, I think Marco, apart from the fact that we know him and like him in this community, he’s an individual who has the excellent opportunity to be able to unify the (Republican) Party,” Espinet told CNN in Spanish. “I am proud of Marco. Not only as a Cuban, but also as a Latino in general. I think it’s a situation that should make all Latinos proud.”
Although Hispanics in the United States statistically vote for Democrats, Cuban-Americans usually register as Republicans, according to the report. Cubans, for example, were the only Latino group that supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, according to exit polls. This could possibly be reflective of a large and older Cuban population that comprised 43% of the South Florida Latino electorate and their traditional, Republican-leaning sentiments.
Nearly 33% of all South Florida Latinos were registered as Republicans in 2014, significantly higher than the 17% in Central Florida.
Luis Rodriguez and Sonia Rodriguez, who have lived in Miami for 36 years after leaving Cuba, visited the famous restaurant Versailles after filing early ballots in the state. And they were vocal about their support for Rubio.
“He is the only who focuses on this country. I am interested in what someone is going to do for this country, not another country,” Sonia said in Spanish, adding that she believes Republican front-runner Donald Trump is too focused on other countries and is too harsh in his treatment of other cultures.
“We think that (Marco) will do the best work for this country,” Luis said in Spanish. “Of those who are in the race, we think he’s the best.”
Not all Cuban-Americans are sold on Rubio’s message.
Manuel Mesa, who’s been in the United States for 25 years, said although he admires that Rubio came from humble beginnings like many Cubans, it’s not enough for Rubio to win his vote.
“He’s a person who rose from a poor family,” Mesa says in Spanish about Rubio. “But I don’t think he’s fit for leading the country.”
Asked whether he believes Rubio will win his state, Cuban exile Calatayud said he wasn’t so sure.
“I think he committed the error of going to too many states instead of concentrating on his state. Ted Cruz, to win Texas, was established (in his state),” he told CNN in Spanish. “If Marco Rubio doesn’t win his state, he has to suspend his campaign.”