December 13 2008
By Tom Bevan, RealClearPolitics.com
New polling in Florida shows that for the first time a majority of Cuban-Americans favour lifting the trade embargo against Cuba that the United States has had in place since 1962. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed favored discontinuing the embargo, and 65 per cent said they were in favor of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the neighboring Communist regime.
During the Democratic primary, then candidate Barack Obama spelled out his willingness to ease the embargo with Cuba in an op-ed in the Miami Herald in August 2007, writing that he would “use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message: If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States (the president working with Congress) is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades.”
The following May, Obama gave a speech in Little Havana saying that his policy toward Cuba would be “guided by one word: libertad.” In the speech Obama again advocated easing restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba.
Obama lost the meaningless Florida primary to Clinton in January by 17 points, which included a 33-point thumping among the state’s Hispanics.
But Obama won the Sunshine State 51-49 over McCain in November, including a majority of the Hispanic vote. Obama lost the Cuban vote to McCain by thirty points, 65-35, though there was a stark discrepancy among age group. The oldest demographic of Cuban-Americans (aged 65+) voted overwhelmingly for McCain, 84-16, but those Cuban-Americans under 30 backed Obama by a 55-45 margin.
As a result, the Associated Press declares that Obama will be the first president in 50 years to have “a relatively free hand” in forging a shift in America’s policy toward Cuba:
Cuban-Americans have had a mixed reaction to Obama’s campaign promises — most voted against him, but Obama carried Florida and didn’t even need the state’s votes to win the presidency, confounding the notion that the support of anti-Castro Cuban exiles is essential in presidential elections.
“Obama already has a much freer hand than Bush did,” said Daniel Erickson of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C. think tank. “He does not owe any of his political success to Cuban-Americans in South Florida.”
Obama is therefore free to chart a new course. He can reverse some policies of President George W. Bush with a pen stroke, and while undoing the embargo would take a majority in Congress, that’s easier than ever with Democrats holding sizable majorities.
No doubt leading the charge in Congress will be one of President-elect Obama’s former rivals, Senator Chris Dodd, who’s been pushing for taking a softer line against Cuba for years.
Maybe Barack could learn about Cuba’s Health Care system, apparently it is pretty good.