The Miami Herald
Sat, Apr. 17, 2004
GOP counts on Florida Cubans

Two key figures in President Bush's reelection campaign tell The Herald that they were counting on strong Cuban-American support.


With John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, coming to South Florida next week, President Bush's campaign managers delivered a preemptive political strike in an interview Friday with The Herald.

Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush campaign, and Mark Wallace, the campaign's deputy manager, underscored the importance of Florida in November's presidential race, and said they were counting on strong support in the Cuban-American community.

Devenish, quoting Bush political director Karl Rove, labeled Florida ''ground zero'' for the presidential race. But she stopped short of saying that Bush could not win without the state.

''We need it,'' she said of the Florida vote. ``It's of critical importance.''

But, she added, ``I think we could win without Florida. I think it's hard.''

Wallace said Cuban-American support remains important to Bush, and added he did not worry about Kerry luring disenchanted Cuban Americans to his corner because of what he called the Massachusetts senator's poor anti-Castro record.

''This comes down to a choice,'' Devenish said. ``Do people really believe John Kerry is going to do more [for Cuba]?''

She said the Cuban-American community is too smart to be deceived by what she labeled Kerry's ''political pandering'' to Cuban Americans.

Kerry spokesman Mark Kornblau fired back Friday that the president is the one who panders.

''If you look up political pandering in the dictionary, you will find a picture of George Bush in Miami in the year 2000, where he went down and made all sorts of promises to Cuban Americans,'' Kornblau said. ``Unfortunately, he has a record of broken promises.''

He said Kerry has a strong anti-Castro record.

''John Kerry believes strongly that Fidel Castro's regime is unacceptable,'' Kornblau said. ``He is going to work with Cuban Americans to find a more effective approach.''