S. Fla. Cuban women could sway state's presidential vote
By MYRIAM MARQUEZ
This presidential election will rest on young people energized by Barack Obama, moms wowed by Sarah Palin, blue-collar folks swayed by Joseph Biden and veterans saluting John McCain.
All of that is true, but in South Florida there's another emerging group in play: Cuban-American women.
LIBERAL ON SOCIAL ISSUES
Were it not for being rabidly anti-communist, the majority of us gals are ''quite liberal,'' according to a recent study published by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.
No surprise there. Since the 1990s, polls have been showing that Cuban Americans overall are more liberal on social issues than the Republican Party but tougher on communism than many Republicans in Congress.
It's the gender gap on social issues that could portend trouble for the GOP, based on exit polling in 2004 of the Cuban vote.
On gay unions, gun control and legalizing prescription drugs from abroad, Cuban-American voters split from Bush administration policies, with women leading the way.
On abortion rights, Cuban voters were almost evenly split, with 52 percent of women noting they were pro-choice.
This is what social scientists call "symbolically conservative but operationally liberal.''
But here's the catch for Obama: On Cuba policy, Cuban-American women turn into Lorena Bobbitt. They want the Castro brothers emasculated -- not sweet-talked into ''change'' through diplomacy as Obama has proposed.
Cuban-American female voters are even ''more extreme'' than men on U.S. policy toward communist Cuba, according to the UM study, ''What to Expect from the Cuban-American Electorate,'' at cubanaffairsjournal.org.
TOUGH ON COMMUNISM
The problem for Obama is his talk of diplomacy with despots.
When Bill Clinton got about 40 percent of the Cuban-American vote in 1996, he was talking -- if not acting -- tough on Fidel Castro.
It helped Clinton, too, that the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress was attacking disability benefits for our green-card carrying abuelitas.
After the Elián debacle, though, Al Gore could scrape barely 20 percent of the Cuban vote in 2000.
This year, Democrats hope to win over 20-something Cuban Americans and those who arrived after 1980.
But they have not been energetic voters in the past.
Even though Cubans who arrived after 1980 are half the eligible Cuban American voting-age population, they were only one-in-eight registered voters in 2000.
Having lived under a totalitarian regime, those newer arrivals don't have the history of political activism that earlier exiles had.
''A lot of those post-'80 arrivals are registered as independents out of frustration and lack of trust in the political system,'' said UM assistant provost Andy Gomez, who is among the researchers who will discuss the Cuban-American vote at 7 p.m. Monday at UM's Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Ave. in Coral Gables.
The challenge for Democrats will be to attract more Cuban-American women, estimated to make up 55 percent of Cuban voters.
''Any inroads Democrats make are likely to occur only after the classic anti-Castro Cuban identity recedes, and is most likely to be successful by targeting Cuban-American women and their progressive attitudes on social policy,'' the UM study notes.
Or to sum it up for the Dems with a popular exile bumper sticker: No Castro -- No Problem.