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October 16th, 2008
10:40 AM ET

The Race for Florida

Maria Teresa Petersen | BIO
Executive Director, Voto Latino

Never mind Joe the Plumber, both candidates covertly courted two other constituencies. Senator Obama weaved pro-choice and equal pay into his debate to win Wal-Mart moms. McCain stealthy courted Florida – more specifically, he courted the quarter of a million Colombians who reside in the sunshine state and other registered voters with strong ties to Latin America.

How else can one explain McCain bridging energy policy and America's foreign oil dependence to Colombia's failed free trade agreement before Congress? The connection was forced at best -unless one wants to win Florida.

At a time when the election hinges on a state by state strategy, Florida will prove critical this election as it has the past two cycles. And while McCain is losing the Latino vote in every battleground states by over 65%, Florida is the exception. Here Obama is up among Latino voters by a mere 6 point lead. If McCain consolidates the Cuban conservative vote with the Colombian one, he still has a shot at the White House.

That explains McCain's jaunt down to Colombia in mid-July – to court Floridians with ties to Latin America who would appreciate a candidate's attention to the region after ten years of disengagement. His trip seemed clever then.

However, where once this Latin American engagement interest would have helped spike McCain's poll numbers among this constituency, the concerns of Colombian voters, as with other Latinos in Florida, have shifted. McCain's outreach now seems less clever and out of touch.

Today, in the midst of financial meltdown where one in ten Latinos admit to struggling to pay the roof over their head, economically struggling Colombians and other voters with strong ties to Latin America care less about a candidate's fondness for their country of origin and more about how he will ease their financial pain.

As we head into the election's homestretch, the economy tops the interest of Floridian voters of all backgrounds. Absent national security concerns, talk of engagement in foreign lands, no matter how close the ties, seems less critical when you are struggling to keep the shirt on your back. As Sandra Guzman from the New York Post wrote, 'it's the economy estupido.'

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Jose el Plomero

    Extremely perspicacious and attentive point of view, too bad it went right over my head last night!

    I probably would have had to watch the debate 2 or 3 times to have picked up on McCain “covertly courting” the Latino vote in Florida. Do you think Cuban-Americans and Latino Floridians missed it too (I mean, he only mentioned Colombia by name)?!?! I suspect that if most of America watching last night missed the ACORN reference they probably missed any subtle or covert messages too (I was focused on fact that McCain’s head looked like it was about to explode during the second half of the debate). If I were trying to make the connection between trade agreements, Colombian-Americans and finally conservative Cubanos y Latinos that reside in Florida I probably would have said something like, “These types of trade agreements with neighbors & trade partners like Colombia makes sense when you consider our economy - especially with regard to the people and latinos of Florida," even though that's not my point of view. Next you’re gonna try and tell me that John McCain’s response to the “experience” question of his running mate was strained because everyone knows he picked Palin over Lieberman to appease the base and not because of her foreign policy experience.

    October 16, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  2. Ram Riva

    The latino vote in Florida is segregated by the conservative Cubans who want the embargo to continue...
    The large majority of Latinos in the US are supporting Sen Obama...
    McCain as a war addict and Bush doctrinate believer, will comply with it, without a wink...
    On the other hand, Barack Obama, who every day resembles more to John F Kennedy, will be though on Castro's Cuba, but will be more intelligent, and open to establish his own conditions and fresh ideas...
    That puts enormous pressure on the island to work faster toward freedom, human rights, and eventually a democracy...
    With McCain's doctrinate, Russians will take over, as they're doing right now in Venezuela, with their puppet dictator...
    Leadership, intelligence and resolve, is what Russia fears most of Barack Obama...
    McCain is highly predictable, they tease him, and he comes out barking...

    October 16, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  3. sam

    Latinos are not estupido. Latinos are capable of seeing through the hype and voting for substance. McCain has been in the senate 22 years and all Obama can do is compare him to George Bush. In the short amount of time Obama has been on the scene, there are an incredible amount of questions regarding his judgement stemming back to his enthusiastic use of drugs, to his radical, anti American pastor, his pathetic climb into politics using Ayers and ACORN, to his promise of a socialist agenda, including his desire to spread the wealth. Latinos escaped governments that were over controlling, to come here and be free to prosper and live the American Dream. They don't want hand outs, just the opportunity to keep what they work hard for.

    October 16, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  4. Felix

    Obama remarks about the killing os sindicalist was a surprise,nobody is talking about that.

    October 16, 2008 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Maria Cardona

    As a fellow Colombiana, and one whose father resides in the political promise land that is Florida, I fully agree with this analysis. My conversations over the summer with my father, a Reagan Republican-turned Clinton Democrat and full-on Hillary supporter, were all about how Obama and the Democrats only knew how to say nay when it came to free trade with Colombia, how they were blinded by labor's stranglehold on the Democratic Party and how McCain was the one who had a sensible approach. Now, my father, who is an engineer by trade and for the past few years has earned his living by putting those roofs over people's heads – especially when those roofs have been badly damaged by storms that Floridians know all too well – is only concerned about how the next President will get us out of this economic hole we are in. He now fully supports Senator Obama, and the discussion about Colombia did not change his mind on this. In the end, in Florida, with Colombians and others who have come to this country looking for a better life, the economy is king. For sure, it is the economy estupido!!

    October 16, 2008 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Kenith.J.Bolston

    I think thats the best thing Sen. Mccain can do is to try to unite the Cuban and Columbian vote,because they really are scared of a black President as well but the issue is what will Mccain do for those Latinos? Nothing they know it but again, Barack is black. Now if these Latinos can get paas this they know Baracks plan works for almost everybody (minus 5%) Anderson you can convince them:-)

    October 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm |
  7. paulo ferreita/The Netherlands

    We all can see it, desperation did set in, they just don't know what to do!!
    And when that happens they have only one option get dirty and they will.
    Now is the time to really get our strengh together.
    They will try every dirty trick on the book to turn this around, the only way to avoid that is just vote and vote it hard.
    I not paranoia is a fact they are on this for all the wrong reasons regards to the people.
    They don't care about us or anyone they just care about control, money and make sure they win again, they did before.
    Time to time in this planet something AMAZING HAPPEN . at this moment is not even about Obama anymore and he say him self is about us, history is on the making and be proude and show to the rest of this planet history will be made!!
    Vote Obama

    October 16, 2008 at 11:46 am |
  8. patrick casey

    Hello Is our current presidnet Nuts How can we lend money to all forgein banks when we have to borrow money from china to get our own country out of the gutter What on earth is bush thinking OH Wait I Know HE ISNT THINKING AT ALL HE IS Just going to make it harder for the next pres that takes over.

    I also have an idea why dosent america stop the ex pres from being paid till the end of time when there job is done as should the pay stop when i leave a job and go on to do other things i dont get paid still why should the american tax payers have to pay someone for nothing.

    I wish we could have a pres that cared more for american's then making his bank account fat of the labour of others and stop with camp david what is that all about anyway it makes me mad to know that im paying for a second home for someone that i dont even know if that is the case maybe america can bye me a home there giving all the wall street dummies there money back they should have to suffer just like the rest of us and give CHIna there money back god only knows what strings were attached to that loan. America would have been better of going to a loan shark for the money.

    October 16, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  9. Julie San Diego, CA

    What's a WalMart Mom?

    Honestly, could you politicos get any more demeaning as this election stretches on FOREVER? First we have Soccer Moms, then Hockey Moms, and now WalMart Moms?

    Columbia is small potatoes as far as agriculture is concerned, we can buy our coffee elsewhere, and if McCain really 'fessed up, the only reason he was probably down there was because of the drug trade and the political situation, not agriculture.

    I bet neither McCain or Obama can discuss our trade relations with banana farmers on St. Lucia (best tasting bananas in the world), but that's ok, because that country too, is not statistically relevant to our agricultural trade system.

    Quit strategizing and pandering and just give us a real workable plan to get us out of the mess of the last 8 years. If McCain wants us to feel comfortable enough to vote for him, maybe he should put the results of his last doctor's exam up on the internet; the thought of Sarah Palin as President is just too scary to contemplate.

    October 16, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  10. Max

    WALMART moms is SO insulting.

    I would VOTE against THOSE who say things like THAT.

    Jesus.

    October 16, 2008 at 11:19 am |
  11. Cindy

    You people who are supposed to be journalists need to really learn about things before you write articles on them.

    The truth is that free trade will help our economy. When there is no free trade we have to pay huge tariffs to have our goods sold in other countries while these same countries get to sale there stuff here with almost no tariffs. That means our companies make way less money. With free trade agreements we cut a huge percentage off of those tariffs and eventually those tariffs will be completely cut out and therefore we can sale our goods abroad and make more money off of them. Which enables our companies to grow and hire more people or even open up more companies. That is what free trade does for an economy. It grows it not stifles it with taxes... tariffs.

    Cindy...Ga.

    October 16, 2008 at 11:01 am |