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Flip-flop or evolution? Paul Ryan's Cuban-embargo stance could be a sore point in Miami-Dade

When Republican candidates typically come to Miami, they stoke anti-Castro sentiment by promising a to work toward a free Cuba, usually by pledging support for the Cuban embargo.

Is Paul Ryan, the newly minted Republican vice-presidential pick, one of those candidates?

The Wisconsin Congressman has voted at least three times in opposition to the embargo. A handful of current and former Republican Cuban-American lawmakers, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of bucking their own party, told The Miami Herald that Ryan’s record on the Cuban embargo might disappoint Cuban voters, who comprise 72 percent of the GOP electorate in Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest county.

Of course, many wanted to see the exile community's most-prominent politician, Sen. Marco Rubio, on the ticket.

“How could you pass over Marco and pick someone who’s anti-embargo?” one asked. “This might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Ryan voted at least twice in 2001 and 2004 against the embargo, but since 2007 he has opposed efforts to lift it, said Mauricio Claver-Carone, a conservative blogger and executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates.

“He needed to be educated about the embargo,” Claver-Carone said. “He’s good on Cuba.”

Still, in 2009, Ryan still seemed opposed to the embargo when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "If we’re going to have free trade with China, why not Cuba?" Ryan’s philosophical opposition to the embargo is rooted in the politics of the Midwest, which sees trade opportunities with Cuba.

"I don't know those words, but I know his record. And it is strong," said Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a former Congressman and prominent voice in the exile community.

“He was a free-trader and we explained to him the human-rights and terrorist record of the Cuban dictatorship,” Diaz-Balart said. “His record ever since is one of a strong supporter for freedom in Cuba. He is a strong ally."

Some Hispanic Democrats are making some political hay out of this anonymous Romney adviser's comments in Politico where he said "This was all Mitt's decision. These are two guys who love data, and have a similar way of looking at the world. ... Mitt isn't thinking about Ohio or the Hispanic vote. He's thinking: 'I'm gonna be president. Who's going to help me succeed?'

So Rubio's just about the Hispanic vote, eh?

Probably not. But in the hothouse of a campaign, expect opponents to try to wedge Hispanics, especially when there's a "lily-white ticket" in the words of one Cuban-American Republican consultant.