Are Puerto Ricans set to surprise in Florida this year?

Are Puerto Ricans set to surprise in Florida this year? 

Excerpt: With a population of over one million, there is no question that the Florida  Puerto Rican vote is going to be decisive in the races for U.S. Senate and governor. And it seems that Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis may have an edge with this key constituency because of the strong position they have taken in support of Puerto Rican statehood. 

This is a factor that should not be ignored or underestimated when considering what makes Puerto Rican voters tick. Puerto Rican voters are very supportive of statehood for the island, and they are also more likely to vote for candidates who believe that Puerto Rico should be admitted as the 51st state of the Union. 

According to a 2016 Latino Decisions poll, 56 percent of Florida Puerto Rican voters support statehood for the island and 78 percent of them believe that a candidate’s views on Puerto Rico and the island’s issues are “important” or “somewhat important” when voting. 

While Scott has always been close to the statehood leadership on the island and has called on Congress to “respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico” — referring to last year’s referendum in which statehood won with over 90 percent of the vote — Nelson’s willingness to advocate for statehood has not been as clear and definite. Nelson consistently avoided taking a position of the issue while it was debated in Congress in past decades. His sudden support of statehood, while certainly welcomed, may come late and come across as too opportunistic. 

The governor’s race, on the other hand, presents a clear-cut choice for Puerto Rican voters on the issue of statehood. Republican Congressman DeSantis has emerged as a champion of statehood for the island, co-sponsoring in Congress a statehood bill introduced by the Puerto Rico delegate to Congress, Jenniffer González. Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, by contrast, after raising expectations by tweeting that he wanted the pro-statehood governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, to join him at a rally to discuss “how we will reach full equality for Puerto Ricans on the island,” angered Puerto Rican voters by falling short of explicitly endorsing statehood. And then adding insult to injury, His campaign clarified that he supports an undefined “process of self-determination” and would only back statehood if the people of the island voted for it — they did, in totally overlooking that Puerto Ricans have already voted for statehood by wide margins in not one, but two plebiscites, in 2012 and 2017. 

Bottom Line: As I’m inclined to point out conventional wisdom is often anything but wise. That’s doubly true when we’re talking politics (you need look no further than the previous election cycle for all the evidence you’ll ever need). What I find oddest is how many people will continue to go back to the same sources that’ve been consistently wrong for information. Just this week I’ve highlighted the remarkable outcomes in districts 26 & 27 where Hillary Clinton won the vote by 16 and 20 points in those districts but that Republicans Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen both won by double-digits.  

Frequently when I’m questioned by national shows, or intentionally as the case may be with BBC World News, about how elections are won in Florida I’ll point to two important points. #1 the key for Republicans to win statewide races is to “lose well” in South Florida. There’s too much population in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to get routed and still win. Second, I’m quick to point out that “Hispanic” means about 30 different things here. Many are quick to throw up the “Hispanics” break for Democrats by X nonsense. To truly understand elections in Florida you have to understand what matters most to many constituencies.  

It’s why there can be a 26 to 30-point divergence between candidates in different political parties in certain districts. Up to this story the narrative had been that if anything Puerto Ricans resettling in Florida after the hurricanes would tip Florida firmly into Democrat territory because nearly 70% of Puerto Ricans voted for Democrats in 2016. 2016, before the final financial collapse of the island – prior to the hurricanes striking. A year that neither Governor Scott nor Ron DeSantis were on the ballot statewide.  

I don’t know what the final outcome will be here with Puerto Ricans however I do know that the same analysts who were dead wrong in 2016 are peddling the same conventional wisdom that was anything but wise in 2016. 



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