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Campaign 2008

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Republicans Looking South of the Border

by Joanna Klonsky
January 25, 2008

Most candidates have laid out their positions on U.S.-Cuba policy, and have occasionally expressed concern regarding Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s anti-American rhetoric. But Latin America has rarely generated much debate among Republican candidates this campaign season. The campaigns in Florida, of course, remain an exception. In the days leading up to the state‚Äôs January 29 primary, in which Cuban-American voters will represent an estimated ten percent of the Republican vote, candidates have increasingly invoked their anti-Castro positions.

Attempting to appeal to Florida’s large Cuban-American population, McCain Monday reminded voters of his role on a U.S. Navy carrier (Canadian Press) during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Rudy Giuliani received cheers Friday in Little Havana, Miami when he told a crowd of 300 Cuban-Americans that “too many people have romanticized Fidel Castro.” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Despite their support for legislation requiring all immigrants to learn English, Giuliani and Mitt Romney have both been running Spanish-language ads in recent weeks touting their leadership experience. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has been running a Spanish-language ad, too, but with a different message. The radio ad (Austin American-Statesman), which has been running in the Miami area for weeks, calls for an end to the embargo on Cuba.

Mike Huckabee made headlines in December when he said he supports the embargo (LAT), even though he had previously criticized it. Huckabee has also been calling for a ban on immigration from countries on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which includes Cuba. But he clarified Friday that he does not think such a ban should include Cuban immigrants (ABC). “There’s a different picture for Cuba because of our long history,” Huckabee said Friday in Little Havana. “The only logical place for a person to come if they are able to escape the tyranny of Cuba is here, and so I wouldn’t do anything to change that policy one iota.” A RealClearPolitics poll from this week shows Huckabee trailing McCain, Romney, and Giuliani in Florida.

Outside of the attention to Cuba in recent weeks, the Republican campaigns could revisit Latin American issues after the Florida voting is over. Arizona, California, Illinois, and New York, all states with February 5 primaries, have large Latino populations.

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