December 19, 2014

Campaigning on Cuba issues is no longer so straightforward in Florida

@MarcACaputo

Talking about U.S. policy toward Cuba used to be relatively easy for politicians in Florida: say “Cuba libre” or “Cuba sí, Castro no.”

Support for sanctions and the embargo was a given.

But no longer.

The reaction to President Barack Obama’s historic announcement Wednesday to try to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba was the latest sign yet that attitudes in the Cuban-American community are changing or, at least, are far more complex than many would think.

Less than half of Cuban-Americans — 47 percent to be exact — favored the embargo in a Latino Decisions poll of 400 highly likely Florida Hispanic voters taken in the final days of the 2014 elections.

Opposition to the embargo stood at 39 percent among likely Cuban-American voters — a result that Latino Decisons pollster Gary Segura found surprisingly high. “The Cuban-American leadership that supports the embargo has to be in a panic over this,” he said.

The poll also showed that only 33 percent of Cuban-American respondents said the embargo was very important. But 32 percent said the issue was not important.

So the intensity of those voters who favor the embargo isn’t overwhelming, according to the poll.

The Latino Decisions poll echoes results from Florida International University’s annual Cuba poll. FIU’s last survey, in May, found 51 percent of Cuban-American voters favored the embargo in Miami-Dade County, which has the nation’s largest concentration of people of Cuban descent, nearly 900,000 people.

More here

December 18, 2014

From penniless Cuban exile to billionaire GOP moneyman, Mike Fernandez says Obama's Cuba action 'long overdue'

@MarcACaputo

Mike Fernandez arrived in the United States as a 12-year-old penniless immigrant in 1964 after his family fled Cuba. Today, he's one of Miami's most-respected and influential businessmen, a health-insurance billionaire and a GOP moneyman who dutifully supports fellow Republicans in the area.

Except on one issue today: President Obama's decision to restore diplomatic ties with the regime in Cuba.

"I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue," Fernandez, who has just penned a new book called Humbled by the Journey said via email when asked his opinion.

Fernandez's opinion is significant not just because of his party registration and provenance, but because of his age as well. He's 62, old enough to remember the revolution, his father's small sandwich shop in Manzanilla and the life of an immigrant in America. So except for the billions he earned as a health insurance whiz, he's just like most older exiles, who are the most-likely to support the embargo.

Here's his whole statement:

"I feel the pain that Cuban Americans feel. I feel the pain that the Cuban people have been forced to unjustly experience. Trust me, I feel the pain. Having said that, As Americans we lost 58,000 of our sons in Vietnam and 15 years later, we established diplomatic relationships with our former enemy. I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue.

History has been written, lives have been lost, millions have suffered but it’s time to turn the page on the 'Cuba book.' Let us focus on helping the Cuban people versus hurting the regime. Biology will soon take care of them."

December 17, 2014

Obama and Castro reach historic accord to release prisoners, normalize relations

@MarcACaputo and @MiamiHerald staff

In the biggest change to U.S.-Cuba relations in more than five decades, President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro each announced Wednesday that the Cold War-era enemies are trying to normalize relations and have engaged in a prisoner swap involving two jailed Americans and three Cuban spies.

The mutual prisoner release involved jailed USAID contractor Alan Gross, whose five-year imprisonment had become a symbol of Cuba’s repression and, Obama said, a “major obstacle” in talks between the two nations.

The talks, held in Canada, involved Vatican officials and were spurred by Pope Francis, who had urged rapprochement. Though cheered by many, Obama’s announcement drew condemnation from Castro critics in Miami’s Cuban exile community, where the U.S. president was branded as an “Appeaser in Chief.”

Obama said the U.S. plans to open a U.S. embassy in Havana — closed in 1961 — and would allow for increased travel and cash-remittances by U.S. citizens to the island. Obama also said the U.S. would review whether to designate Cuba a state-terrorism sponsor. Obama said it was time for the U.S. to lift some restrictions. Full story here. 

December 14, 2014

President Obama's role in the far-left's immigration blowback

@MarcACaputo

If President Obama were Dr. Frankenstein, the far left’s immigration-reform movement is starting to resemble a monster he can't control.

It haunted Obama last week during an interview with Jorge Ramos, the Fusion/Univision pundit who’s an immigration-reform crusader.

Rather than praise Obama for unilaterally sparing as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportations, Ramos’ reaction was more like: Why so little so late? Here’s an edited transcript of the exchange:

Ramos: “You always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport 2 million people? ... For six years you did it.”

Obama: “No. Listen, Jorge…”

Ramos: “You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.”

Obama: “You called me deporter-in-chief.”

Continue reading "President Obama's role in the far-left's immigration blowback" »

November 04, 2014

Obama cuts last-minute radio ad for Charlie Crist

@PatriciaMazzei

An ad for Democrat Charlie Crist for Florida governor featuring President Barack Obama has been airing since at least Monday on a Miami radio station with a predominantly African-American audience.

"This is it, Florida," the ad begins. "This is Barack Obama."

A female narrator explains how voters can find their polling place. Then it's Obama again:

"So if want to raise Florida's minimum wage, go vote," the president says. "If you believe that every child deserves a fair shot, and that it's wrong to cut scholarships and funding for schools, go vote. If you want a governor who will fight for you, not just the wealthy and the powerful, go vote for Charlie Crist."

"Don't let anyone or anything keep you from voting," Obama concludes.

We tried to get a full recording or script from the Crist campaign Monday, but received no response -- either because they were tied up on the day before Election Day, or because the ad was intended to go under the radar. Obama is unpopular, and many Democratic campaigns have been leery of promoting their ties to the president, though Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Crist in South Florida on Sunday.

The ad is airing on at least one Miami station, WEDR-FM 99.1, better known 99 Jamz.

UPDATE: Republican Gov. Rick Scott has weighed in on the ad with a statement.

"After months of waiting, President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail for Charlie Crist," the statement reads in part." We already know Barack Obama's policies are on the ballot in this election because he told us that himself. But, his new ad for Charlie Crist today means Charlie Crist wants you to know that too."

November 01, 2014

Obama records robocall for Miami Rep. Joe Garcia

@PatriciaMazzei

Stuck in a close reelection race, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia has brought out the big Democratic guns to help.

Targeted Democratic voters in the 26th congressional district received an automated telephone recording Saturday asking them to vote for the congressman. The voice they heard? President Barack Obama's.

"I'm calling on behalf of Joe Garcia to remind you to vote early this election, because your vote matters, and the choice couldn't be clearer," Obama says. "Joe Garcia knows that Medicare and Social Security aren't schemes, they're promises we make to one another, they're commitments that make this country stronger, and he'll always fight to protect them."

Garcia's challenger, Republican Carlos Curbelo, who has campaigned with former Obama opponent Mitt Romney, has repeatedly tied the Democratic incumbent to the unpopular president.

"Although scandal-plagued Joe Garcia has spent the vast majority of his campaign distancing himself from President Obama, he is now praying that the President's last-minute call will help hid the fact that his campaign is under federal criminal investigation," read part of a statement released Saturday by Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan.

On the campaign trail, Garcia has stressed that he's disagreed at times with Obama, and let him know about it.

But Garcia's campaign seems to be betting that the president is still popular enough -- at least among the party faithful -- to draw reticent midterm voters to the polls. The congressman plans to campaign Sunday with Vice President Joe Biden.

Listen to the robocall here.

This post has been updated with a quote from Gaitan's statement.

August 21, 2014

DNC chair Wasserman Schultz bucks lame-duck Obama on deporting unaccompanied minors

@MarcACaputo

It's August, and in Washington Democratic insider circles that usually means some anonymous person from Obama World would have something nasty to say about Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Weston's congresswoman.

But the third time wasn't the charm.

And last night it looked like Wasserman Schultz was ready to put some daylight between her and President Obama over a most-sensitive topic: the unaccompanied minors who flooded the border.

Here's Politico:

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz also thinks deporting children detained at the border is sending them back to “certain death.”

The White House went apoplectic last month when likely 2016 presidential candidate Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said, “We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death.” Tuesday night, Wasserman Schultz said twice — strongly — that she thinks O’Malley was right.

“As you know, Gov. O’Malley said that to send them back would be to send them to certain death. Do you agree with him?” Fusion’s Jorge Ramos asked in an interview.

“Not only do I agree with him, but,” the Florida congresswoman said, launching into a long story about a boy she’d met during a visit to a facility in Miami who told her of being kidnapped and forced into the drug trade, and showed her a bullet wound through the back of his arm.....

“That was the first she was hearing about Martin O’Malley,” said Wasserman Schultz’s congressional office communications director Sean Bartlett. “She was reacting to Jorge’s question and thinking about the tour she had just come from.”

Putting aside the potential political calculus of courting Hispanics or firing up liberals or simply saying something heartfel, maybe it's just a coincidence that Wasserman Schultz happened to say this now.

But regardless, the lame-duckness of President Obama is looking lamer and lamer.

March 31, 2014

Rick Scott: Obama's 'not caring about Venezuela'

@MarcACaputo

Ruth Alcalá just wants the president she twice voted for, Barack Obama, to speak forcefully about the government violence in Venezuela.

But for more than a month, she says, she and other natives of Venezuela have been “disappointed” in the administration’s relative silence, even as she gathered 1,000 signatures on a letter that calls on Obama to act -- or at least speak.

“At the least, we want to hear the president say something,” said Alcalá, a private citizen who teaches computer training in Miami.

On Monday, the 57-year-old Democrat found herself standing next to an unlikely ally: Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, who promised to personally deliver her letter to the White House and pressure Venezuela’s regime to stop cracking down on protestors.

“Mr. President, you’ve got to declare economic sanctions. You’ve got to show up,” Scott told an enthusiastic crowd of Venezuelan exiles at the Don Criollito restaurant in Kendall.

Scott contrasted Obama’s low-key Venezuela diplomacy and the president’s talks with Russia over its invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

“He cares about Ukraine. But he’s not caring about Venezuela,” Scott said.

Continue reading "Rick Scott: Obama's 'not caring about Venezuela'" »

March 20, 2014

Obama's lament at Democratic fundraiser: 'in midterms, we get clobbered'

@MarcACaputo

At the Pinecrest home of Alonzo Mourning, the basketball star’s wife, Tracy Mourning, introduced President Obama during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser on Thursday night. But she first told a story of how her mother, a cleaning woman, struggled to make sure she felt she had everything she needed.

“When those damned Republicans are in office, I’m struggling,” Tracy Mourning said her mother would tell her.

Obama spoke shortly after 8:30 p.m. and told the wealthy donors that they need to give back to the party and the community.

Obama said he and others succeeded because of their parents. But society helped as well.

Continue reading "Obama's lament at Democratic fundraiser: 'in midterms, we get clobbered'" »

Univision personality to host DNC fundraiser with Obama at Miami home

@MarcACaputo

Another sign of the close ties between Spanish-language Univision and Democrats: Tonight's Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Miami home Liliana Estefan, the host of the popular "El Gordo y la Flaca" show.

Estefan is quite a political catch. She's a star. She's the niece of music stars Emilio and Gloria Estefan. And the Cuban-American, along with husband Lorenzo Luaces, is a registered Republican.

The president also has a DCCC fundraiser later at the home of Alonzo Mourning.

The Estefan fundraiser underscores the affinity between Univision and the Democratic Party these days. The network is partnering with Obama's former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in an outreach effort. Univision owner Haim Saban is a major Democratic donor who said he'd back Clinton with "full might."

From Saban to a network news honcho's assistant, some at Univision have also made sure to train their fire on Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a likely 2016 White House candidate.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Izzy Santa, took to Twitter and criticized the ties: "Univision should explain to their viewers their conflict of interest. First, HRC partnership and now fundraising for the DNC."

Univision's spokeswoman Monica Talan issued this response on Twitter: "Lili hosts an entertainment gossip show. Who or what our employees support on their own time is independent from the Company."

Where the DCCC fundraiser is open to a print pool, media access at the DNC event is closed. Don't expect Univision to report on it in depth anyway. And don't expect the national media to do the same regarding Univision.