White House Names New Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs

February 6, 2018
Interested Parties
From:   Giancarlo Sopo

Re:        White House Names New Head of Western Hemisphere Affairs

The following memo is an initial summary of today’s news regarding the Trump administration nominating Kimberly Breier to lead the State Department’s office for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and its significance to Latin America.  It’s subject to be updated as this news evolves.

Background Information

  • The White House announced today that it will name Kimberly Breier as the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
  • This position is highly influential in shaping U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America.
  • Breier is known to be a subject matter expert on Mexico and intelligence issues.
  • She is well-respected in Washington policy circles and her public and private sector careers have largely focused on Latin America.
  • She previously served in the National Security Council of the George W. Bush White House (2005-2006) focusing on Brazil and the Southern Cone and subsequently as interim director of the Andean region.
  • Prior to government service, Breier served as a senior fellow and director of the National Policy Association’s North American Committee, a trilateral business and labor committee involving senior officials from the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
  • She received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Middlebury College and an MA in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University.

On Mexico

  • Overall: Breier favors a comprehensive approach to the U.S. relationship with Mexico across immigration, trade, security, and economic matters.
  • Favors a Cohesive Strategy: In September 2016, Breier wrote an article for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a moderate Washington, D.C. think tank where she worked, that then-candidate Trump’s visit to Mexico presented an opportunity “to reframe the bilateral relationship in a new light, with a new strategy.” She argued that “U.S. policy toward Mexico very often lacks a coherent strategy that recognizes the breadth and depth of issues that matter greatly to the United States and to the American population”
  • On Trade: Breier has stated: “We can discuss the net effects of trade policy and the costs and benefits for Americans, and we should, but in the context of the broader bilateral relationship with all of its assets and flaws, and in an environment of realistic policy options.”
  • On Immigration: Breier has emphasized the role of trade policies and the need for greater cooperation, arguing “No serious answer to the challenges that illegal immigration poses can be found without looking at the drivers of immigration from Mexico, and the role that trade policy and the broader economic relationship play in influencing migratory flows.” In addition, Breier said that border security “can be part of the answer […] something that can be done cooperatively, and not just unilaterally.” Adding, “improved border security addresses a symptom of the problem and not the cause.”
  • On Security: Breier has recognized the importance of Mexico as a U.S. partner on security matters: “Cooperation with Mexico on [national security] issues puts the United States on the offense, helping us catch threats early, before they reach the border.”
  • New Special Envoy? In 2016, Breier introduced the concept of creating a high-level position to deal with the U.S.-Mexico relationship: “The idea has been to create a structure within each government with an institutional memory that would transcend changes in leadership and political party in each country and keep the bilateral relationship on course.”

On Venezuela and Cuba

  • Considered a Pragmatist: At least one former adviser to the Obama administration is praising Trump’s selection of Breier.
    • The Miami Herald reports: “She’s highly qualified,” said Mark Feierstein, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs under President Barack Obama. “She’s a pragmatic Republican. She fits squarely within the bipartisan traditions of U.S. foreign policy overall and U.S. foreign policy toward the region.”
  • Not Top Priorities: The nomination of an expert on Mexico, rather than hardline Cuba policy figures, could be a sign that the administration’s focus in Latin America will be the bilateral relationship with Mexico, specifically on trade and security matters, rather than making signficiant changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela.
    • According to the Miami Herald: Breier “is not expected to push the administration to turn up the pressure on Venezuela and Cuba. But […] she could play a role [in] helping Trump pressure other Latin American governments to take stronger positions on the Caracas regime.”




Father’s Day and the Bay of Pigs

In 1961, my father, 21 year-old Edgar Sopo, put down his books, picked-up a rifle, and risked his life in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Just two years before, his father, my grandfather, died as a political prisoner at the hands of a revolution he once hoped would free his country of another dictator. (To be clear, my father never favored Castro’s 26th of July Movement; he sympathized with the Christian democratic groups of the time.) Like most youth of his day, he strongly opposed the Batista regime and wanted democracy restored to Cuba. He held this desire close to him, yearned for it, and fought for it until he died 40 years later. A beautiful Cuban flag draped his coffin at St. Brendan Church.

Look, I’m not a big fan of President Trump, but watching him address Brigade 2506 on Friday made me think a lot about my dad. He was a man of principle who dedicated his life to battling the evils of communism that robbed him of his youth, his father, and the place he called home. The physical and emotional scars of that war eventually cost him his life, as he succumbed to cirrhosis battling depression and alcoholism for decades. Some blows are so hard that they can take down even the most valiant of fighters.

I could not asked for better parents. A strong and caring single mother raised me while my father fought the good fight. Despite the flaws that made him human, I also could not be more proud of him and the fact that I will always carry his name, as will my unborn children. It’s always an honor to speak with the people who knew him because they all say the same thing: “Giancarlo, tu padre fue un heroe”, “Edgar fue un patriota, un gran cubano”, “Sopo fue amigo de sus amigos”… To my sisters and me, he was just dad, the guy who taught me how to play catch. To him, I was just champ.

We lost him when I was just 16. While I wish I had gotten to know him better, I feel like he’s always with me. He may have died a poor man, but I inherited the best things one could ever ask for from a parent: a strong set of values to guide me, especially when I make mistakes; a living example of the meaning of true love in all its forms—of country, family, and fellow man; and a brave fighter to watch over our family.

I love you, dad. Happy Father’s Day.

CubaOne Kicks Off 2017 Among Cuban Millennials and a Historic Meeting with the U.S. Charge D’Affairs in Cuba

CubaOne Kicks Off 2017 in Havana Among Cuban Millennials and a Historic Meeting with the U.S. Charges D’Affairs in Cuba

Young Cuban-Americans reunited with family and explored roots on the journey of a lifetime

MIAMI, FL (Jan. 6, 2017) – CubaOne Foundation, the nonprofit that sponsors family reunification and cultural visits to Cuba for young Cuban-Americans, concluded its one-week visit to the island this week with a historic meeting with U.S. Charge D’Affairs Jeffrey DeLaurentis. The American ambassador welcomed the 10 young Cuban-Americans at his residence in the municipality of Playa for a discussion on the progress that has been achieved since Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic ties.

“We are grateful to Ambassador DeLaurentis and Mrs. Jennifer DeLaurentis for welcoming a new generation of Cuban-Americans to their residence and showing the world what can be achieved through diplomacy,” said Giancarlo Sopo, cofounder and chair of CubaOne Foundation. “We believe in the importance of young Cuban-Americans having a seat at the table in U.S.-Cuba relations,” added Sopo.

In its third trip to the island, CubaOne focused on U.S.-Cuba relations from the perspective of the Cuban people. The 10 CubaOne fellows met with cuentapropistas (independent entrepreneurs), artists, and campesinos (farmers) in Havana and Pinar del Rio last week. Previous visits focused on entrepreneurship and the arts.

“Despite our differences, by building bridges upon a foundation of mutual respect, collaboration, and shared values, CubaOne is inspiring a new generation to think of Cuba beyond black-and-white photos and reconnect with its cultural heritage,” said Lissette Calveiro, an alumnus of CubaOne’s first class who now leads its outreach efforts as a member of its Board of Directors. “This trip truly shed light on the similarities between our group and their peers in Cuba, and helped deepen our connection to the Cuban people”

As in prior visits, CubaOne offered its fellows authentic experiences and opportunities to interact directly with ordinary Cubans. Rather than staying at hotels, the fellows stay in Cuban family homes (casas particulares). They also played street baseball with children in Regla, a municipality with deep Afro-Cuban roots; met young journalists from OnCuba in Vedado; explored Havana on a bicycle tour led by a pair of female cuentapropistas; and listened to local hip-hop performances with Cuban millennials in Centro Habana. CubaOne also organized meetings with young lawyers, designers, and restaurant operators on the island.

“From riding horses with campesinos in Viñales, to playing pelota with Cuban children in Regla, and ringing in the new year with millennial habaneros along El Malecón, CubaOne is helping a new generation develop a personal relationship with the Cuban people,” said Daniel Jimenez, CEO and cofounder of CubaOne.

Cherie Cancio, a cofounder who leads programming for the organization said, “We’re humbled to have the opportunity to visit Cuba with such an amazing group of young Cuban-Americans from across the country. It’s incredibly moving to see them meet their families, walk up the steps of where their abuelos met, and connect with fellow millennials.”

For more information, please visit CubaOne.org.


About CubaOne Foundation: CubaOne Foundation is a Miami-based nonprofit that is introducing a new generation of Cuban-Americans to Cuba and its people. Founded by four young Cuban-Americans, CubaOne has quickly become one of the country’s fastest-growing Latino organizations with over 1,700 millennials applying to its fellowship program.

CubaOne sponsors visits to the island for groups of 10 young Cuban-Americans and encourages its fellows to think of creative ways they can collaborate with their Cuban peers. Launched in 2016, CubaOne Foundation is funded by the generosity of its board, grassroots donors, and grants from non-governmental foundations.

Christina Quintana, an acclaimed New Orleans playwright, meets her grand aunt for the first time

Angelo Guisado, a lawyer from New York and former NCAA pitcher, joined Cuban children in Regla for an inning of pickup baseball

A local Cuban offers CubaOne a guided tour through La Habana Vieja

Ricky Rojas, a filmmaker from Los Angeles, listens to a local habanero from “El Barrio Chino”

Cuban designer R10 showcases his artwork to the CubaOne fellows

CubaOne Fellows Explore U.S.-Cuba Relations in Havana

Ten young Cuban-Americans meet with entrepreneurs, U.S. diplomats, and artists in Cuba

Miami, FL (December 29, 2016) – Ten young Cuban-Americans departed to Havana, Cuba this week to explore U.S.-Cuba relations and connect with family on the island through CubaOne Foundation. During their weeklong trip to the island, the CubaOne fellows will hear from their peers, family, young Cuban entrepreneurs, artists, campesinos, and diplomats in Havana on what the future of U.S.-Cuba relations look like for them and how both sides can continue to work together on areas of mutual interest. Several of the fellows will also with family members on the island. 

The 10 CubaOne fellows, most of whom hail from Miami and New York, started their visit in the lush countryside of Pinar del Rio where they met with local farmers before making their way to the country’s capital city. In Havana, the young Cuban-Americans will hear first-hand from American diplomats from the U.S. Embassy on the progress and future of U.S.-Cuba relations. CubaOne’s fellows will also hear directly from ordinary Cubans on how diplomatic relations have impacted their lives through meetings with cuenta-propistas (entrepreneurs), journalists from OnCuba, and a visit to Regla, a municipality in Havana with a strong Afro-Cuban cultural history that is far beyond the beaten tourist path.

“As diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana continue to evolve, CubaOne is committed to supporting and facilitating engagement between our countries,” said Giancarlo Sopo, co-founder and chair of CubaOne Foundation. “We are offering our CubaOne fellows a front-seat view of history with opportunities to hear directly from the Cuban people.”

“We want our fellows to experience the real Cuba and not just a touristy concoction,” said Daniel Jimenez, co-founder and CEO of CubaOne. “Our team has carefully planned every aspect of our itinerary so that our class can engage the Cuban people, learn about their culture, and reunite with family.” The third CubaOne class of fellows includes a diverse and impressive roster of young Cuban-American leaders from across the country, including artists, non-profit leaders, and a lawyer. They will visit the island from December 27-January 2.


About CubaOne Foundation: CubaOne Foundation is a Miami-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping a new generation connect with Cuba and its people. By sponsoring high-impact trips to the island, CubaOne helps young Cuban-Americans explore their culture, engage their peers, and reunite with their families.

Updated Analysis of the 2016 Cuban-American Vote

Date:    December 18, 2016

To:        Interested Parties

From:   Giancarlo Sopo & Guillermo Grenier, Ph.D.

Re:       Analysis of the 2016 Cuban-American Vote

Key Points

  • Hillary Clinton’s performance among Cuban-American voters was historically high for a Democratic presidential candidate.
  • Some argue that Obama’s Cuba policy hurt Clinton, yet data shows no evidence that this issue played a pivotal role in the election results. In fact, according to actual results from the Miami-Dade Department of Elections, Democrats saw double-digit improvements in heavily Cuban-American areas.
  • President-elect Trump’s reversal on U.S.-Cuba policy did not help him with Cuban-Americans. Polls taken before and after he changed his position showed that his standing among this demographic remain unchanged.

Actual Election Results in Cuban Neighborhoods: Clinton 48%, Trump 50%

Hillary Clinton surpassed President Obama’s 2012 margins in the country’s most heavily Cuban-American neighborhoods by double-digits and earned over 82,000 more votes than Obama in Miami-Dade County. To be clear, these are actual election results, not polling data.

  • In Miami-Dade County, where one out of three residents is Cuban-American, Clinton won by 30 points, 64% to 34%, an 81,688-vote improvement for Democrats from 2012.[1]
Obama / Romney 541,440 62% 332,981 38% + 208,459 + 24 pts.
Clinton / Trump 624,146 64% 333,999 34% + 290,147 + 30 pts.
Difference +82,706 + 2 pts. + 1,018 – 4 pts + 81,688 + 6 pts.
  • Democrats also made inroads in the predominantly Cuban[2] and traditionally Republican[3] city of Hialeah7 where the GOP saw its 9.1-point 2012 victory margin vanish.
Obama / Romney 27,675 45% 33,267 54 % + 5,592 + 9 pts.
Clinton / Trump 33,625 49% 33,718 49% + 93
Difference + 5,950 + 4 pts. + 451 – 5 pts. – 5,499 – 9 pts.
  • In addition, Democrats saw a 14-point improvement from 2012 in the suburb of Westchester[4], the U.S. community with the highest percentage of residents born in Cuba.
Obama / Romney 4,463 36% 7,856 63% + 3,393 + 27 pts.
Clinton / Trump 5,480 42% 7,219 55% + 1,739 + 13 pts.
Difference + 1,107 + 6 pts. – 637 – 8 pts. – 1,654 – 14 pts.
  • In West Miami, home to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Clinton’s six-point loss to Trump, 51% to 45%, was a 13-point improvement for Democrats from their 2012 performance.
Obama / Romney 948 40% 1,413 59% + 465 + 19 pts.
Clinton / Trump 1,198 45% 1,344 51% + 146 + 6 pts.
Difference + 250 + 5 pts. – 69 – 8 pts. – 319 – 13 pts.
  • Combine the results from Hialeah, Westchester, and West Miami (where approximately three out of four voters are Cuban-American): Clinton 48% vs. Trump 50%.
Clinton Trump Total Obama Romney Total
Hialeah 33,625 33,718 69,007 27,675 33,267 61,232
Westchester 5,480 7,219 13,128 4,463 7,856 12,382
West Miami 1,198 1,344 2,637 948 1,413 2,377
Totals 40,303 42,281 84,772 33,086 42,536


48% 50% 44% 56%

Polls Showed Clinton’s Performance was Consistent with Obama’s 2012 Figures

Two election surveys measured Florida’s Cuban-American voters in the 2016 election:

  • The Edison Research exit poll by television networks showed Clinton at 41% and Trump at 54%.
  • Latino Decisions’ election eve study showed the Democratic candidate at 47% and the Republican at 52%.[6]

While there is a debate among researchers as to the accuracy of national exit polls in measuring small ethnic clusters, these results are statistically consistent with one another and closely mirror how both parties fared in 2012 when pollsters pegged Obama’s share of Cuban-Americans between 35% and 49%. Regardless of one’s preferred election poll, Clinton and Trump’s results were on the high and low end, respectively, of their parties’ historical performances among voters of Cuban descent.[7]

Latino Decisions also found that Clinton won a majority (50%)[8] of the country’s Cuban-American voters, the highest share ever recorded for a Democratic presidential candidates. Approximately three out of 10 Cuban-Americans live outside of Florida.

Clinton Outperformed Obama by 11 Points in Cuban-American Precincts

Distrustful of opinion surveys, embargo supporters pointed to 30 “Cuban-American precincts” in Miami-Dade and concluded that Trump’s share of the Cuban-American vote was 58%[9] as evidence that the election was a referendum on President Obama’s Cuba policy. There are methodological issues with precinct analyses to induce how an ethnic group voted. There are no homogenously Cuban-American precincts and voters in western Miami suburbs may not be representative of younger ones in areas like Wynwood and Miami Beach.

Nonetheless, we tabulated the results in those precincts, compared them with how they fared in 2012, and found that Clinton’s margins against Trump were 11 points better than Obama’s versus Romney. This discredits the hardliners’ argument. Since, clearly, had there been a repudiation of Obama’s Cuba policy, Democrats would have suffered losses in these areas, instead of the gains they enjoyed.

It’s Unclear if U.S.-Cuba Policy Influenced Cuban-American Voters

It is unclear what, if any, role U.S-Cuba policy plays in determining how Cuban-Americans vote. The data shows that voters’ stances on the issue are not the best indicator of how they will vote.

  • According to an August 2016 study by Florida International University (FIU) with a sample of 743 Cuban-American voters, 72% of embargo supporters are Republicans, the vast majority of which would have voted for Trump regardless of Clinton’s position on the issue.
  • Four out of 10 (41.6%) Cuban-Americans electors who said they support the new U.S. policy identified themselves as Trump supporters. In addition, 55% of Cuban-American voters support the new Cuba policy. The study also found that 58% favor ending the U.S. embargo (including 75% of Independent voters), and 61% support diplomatic relations with Cuba. Support for the new Cuba policy goes beyond the Cuban-American community. An October Bloomberg poll showed 67% of likely Florida voters favor engagement with Cuba.

However, embargo advocates point to a pair of New York Times/Sienna College polls from September and October as proof that Trump enjoyed a + 20-point surge among Cubans after changing his position on Cuba policy to a more hardline stance. The problem with this conclusion is that given that the poll only interviewed approximately four dozen Cuban voters, the results are statistically unreliable. In fact, the Times itself warned its readers the “survey did not sample a large number of Cuban voters, so the findings should be interpreted with caution.”

Meanwhile, surveys with significant Cuban-American samples by pollsters from different political parties found that Donald Trump’s margins among Cuban-American voters did not change after his Cuba policy reversal.

With Clinton making significant gains in Cuban-American neighborhoods; polls showing that majorities of Cuban voters support engagement policies; and no sign that Trump’s Cuba 180° helped him, there is simply no evidence to backup the claim that Obama’s Cuba policy hurt Democrats or that a hardline stance benefited Republicans.

The Cuban-American Vote Was Important, But Not Decisive in Florida

Some argue that Cuban-American voters cost Hillary Clinton the state of Florida. Two conditions are required for this to be true: (1) Clinton’s performance among Cubans would have to be unusually low and (2) Clinton would have won the state had she mirrored past performances among Cuban-Americans. The election results clearly show that Clinton surpassed Obama’s totals, and as FiveThirtyEight pointed out, “Cuban-Americans would have needed to vote for Hillary Clinton by an impossibly wide margin to swing the election her way, and Trump would have won the state if they hadn’t voted at all.”

Indeed, Cuban-American voters accounted for six percent (564,938) of the 9,415,638 Florida voters[10] who cast a ballot for President. Even if Clinton had improved her performance among them by 10 points, it’s a gain of 57,000 votes—well short of her statewide deficit of 114,000. It’s clear that while Cuban-Americans remain an important political constituency, they were not the deciding factor in Present-elect Trump’s Florida win.

White Non-Hispanic Voters Propelled Trump to Victory in Florida

Trump’s performance among white non-Hispanics was the most important factor in his victory in Florida.

  • In 2016, white non-Hispanic voters were 62% of the electorate; yet they made-up 81% of Trump’s statewide coalition. Republicans made gains in predominantly white non-Hispanic suburban and exurban counties in Central Florida. For example: Trump surpassed Mitt Romney’s margins in Pasco and Lake counties by 14,164 and 13,447 votes, respectively.
  • Sixty-four percent of Florida’s white, non-Hispanic voters supported Donald Trump, while 32% backed Hillary Clinton. In 2012, President Obama and Mitt Romney received 61% and 37%, respectively, of Florida’s white non-Hispanic voters. Trump’s 32-point advantage was an eight-point improvement for the GOP from 2012.
  • Had Clinton mirrored Obama’s 2012 performance among Florida’s white non-Hispanic voters and kept Trump at Romney’s support levels, she would have narrowed her 2016 gap among this demographic by approximately 467,015 votes—and maintained Florida in the Democratic column.

The Bottom Line

  • In 2016, Cuban-American voters supported Hillary Clinton at historically high levels. Moreover, Democrats saw double-digit gains in Cuban neighborhoods, a sign that these voters are still in play.
  • Cuba policy is no longer the third rail of Florida politics for pro-engagement candidates. Based on the data (electoral and survey), neither Obama’s Cuba policy or Clinton’s support for ending the embargo affected the results. Moreover, Cuban-American voters did not determine the outcome in Florida.
  • It’s unclear if a candidate’s position on U.S.-Cuba policy—regardless of whether they support or oppose the embargo—determines how Cuban-Americans vote.
  • Taking a pro-embargo stance on Cuba is no longer the secret to convincing persuadable Cuban voters or winning in Florida where two thirds of all electors support ending the embargo. Six polls showed that Trump’s support among Cuban-American voters did not change after he reversed his U.S.-Cuba policy position to a more hardline stance. This is largely due to the fact that three out of four embargo supporters are Republicans, and were likely going to vote for Trump regardless of his position on Cuba.

About the Authors

Giancarlo Sopo is a Democratic strategist and serves as the (pro-bono) chair of CubaOne Foundation, a non-partisan non-for-profit organization he co-founded that sponsors cultural and family reunification visits to Cuba for young Cuban-Americans. He was formerly the head of marketing and a consultant at Benenson Strategy Group, as well as a teaching fellow on Leadership and Presidential Politics at the Harvard University Extension School.

Guillermo J. Grenier, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and graduate program director in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. Dr. Grenier has authored and co-authored six books and dozens of articles on labor, migration, immigrant incorporation, and Cuban-American ideological profiles.

Neither Florida International University or CubaOne Foundation contributed to this report.

[1] Source: Miami-Dade County Elections. Retrieved: 12/1/16 at 3:25 PM. (http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/FL/Dade/64620/182932/en/summary.html)

[2] Source: 2015 American Community Survey, United States Census Bureau. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 10:47 AM. (http://factfinder.census.gov)

[3] Source: Miami Dade-County Elections. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 12:22 PM (http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/voter-registration-statistics.asp)

[4] Westchester is defined as the area south of SW 8th Street to SW 40th Street & West of SW 77th Avenue to SW 97th Avenue

[5] Totals include votes for third party candidates

[6] The Florida Latino Decisions survey has a sample size of 250 Cuban-American voters, a margin of error of +/- 6.2%. The Edison Research survey had a sample of approximately 240 Cuban-American voters with a margin of error of +/- 6.3%. The two findings are statistically consistent given their margins of error.

[7] Campos-Flores, A. (2012, November 8). Cuban-Americans Move Left. The Wall Street Journal.

[8] N = 300 with a margin of error of +/- 5.7%

[9] This figure for Trump overstates his performance by one percentage point. It appears as though their calculation mistakenly used the sum of Clinton and Trump votes as the divisor without including votes for third party candidates.

[10] Source: Florida Division of Elections. Retrieved: 11/13/16 at 3:47 PM.(http://enight.elections.myflorida.com/FederalOffices/Presidential/)

Clinton Surpassed Obama’s Totals by 11 pts. in Cuban-American Precincts

An analysis of  voting precincts in Miami-Dade County with high concentrations of Cuban-American voters shows an 11-point improvement for Hillary Clinton from President Obama’s 2012 margins. These results could indicate that Democrats continue to make inroads among Miami Cuban-American voters and are inconsistent with the argument that President Obama’s Cuba policy hurt Clinton’s chances in Florida.

Opponents of President Obama’s Cuba policy pointed to these precincts today to argue that Cuban-Americans voted against Clinton as a backlash against Obama’s policy of ending the U.S. embargo toward Cuba, which Clinton supports. However, when compared to the Obama-Romney results from 2012, Democrats saw an 11-point gain in these areas.

DJT HRC       MR BO  
Precinct Votes Votes Total Precinct Votes Votes Total
301 745 433 1204 301 731 407 1151
307 1034 667 1754 307 1030 612 1656
317 684 359 1080 317 748 332 1091
318 1269 911 2234 318+319 1288 755 2054
330+353 1819 1777 3723 353 1179 1225 3014
331 1251 908 2212 331+330+329 1969 1165 3148
357 706 501 1246 357 684 461 1155
375 388 329 733 375+361 461 311 775
402+376 2687 1958 4800 402 2645 1251 3923
412+472 1870 1086 3071 412+456 1957 926 2902
413+459 1917 1021 3034 413+459 1997 806 2816
419 632 378 1046 419 676 268 948
420 1019 665 1732 420 1113 540 1663
421 972 669 1690 421 1484 806 2300
422 573 427 1031 422 644 346 991
423 809 622 1482 423 906 514 1424
433 866 604 1516 433 921 475 1407
437 835 576 1466 437 951 448 1406
438 1113 732 1908 438 1227 605 1840
440 828 508 1390 440 892 415 1311
441 1007 709 1776 441 1026 625 1659
449 579 469 1083 449 668 343 1015
704 921 763 1731 704 956 695 1658
708 1017 830 1913 708+709 964 697 1678
710 773 550 1376 710 793 517 1314
712 901 642 1589 712 967 586 1560
713 981 855 1903 713 1022 672 1705
715 899 701 1650 715 1018 587 1618
716 838 517 1392 716+780 722 372 1099
718 903 707 1673 718+724 1273 700 1982
720 861 524 1435 720 1088 500 1595
Total: 31697 22398 55873   Total 34000 18962 53858
  57% 40%       63% 35%  
*To achieve an apples-to-apples comparison, certain precincts were combined since a redistricting occurred between 2012 and 2016. For example: in 2012, what is now Precinct 330 was half of what was then Precinct 353. Therefore, 2016 precincts 330 and 353 were combined and compared to 2012 precinct 353. Similarly, what is now precinct 413 was 413+459 in 2012. The process of combining precincts to make accurate companions did not affect the candidates’ respective percentages.
*Both past and current maps can be found here.
*Source: Miami-Dade County Elections
*2016 Precinct 413 was updated to include precinct 459 to achieve a precise comparison with the same area in 2012. 

Before we read too deeply into precinct results, let’s note the obvious methodological issues with using them as a basis for generalizations about the Cuban-American community:

  • No voting precinct is homogeneously Cuban-American.
  • These voting precincts are not necessarily representative of the entire Cuban-American community. We can reasonably assume that a 31 year-old Cuban-American voter in Wynwood may have different political views than his grandparents who live in Westchester.
  • Three out of 10 Cuban-Americans do not live in Florida.

Regardless, let us resume with the analysis:

  • Between 2012 and 2016, Republicans saw a drop of six points in these heavily Cuban precincts. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton exceeded President Obama’s share of the electorate by five points.
  • This is a combined total shift of 11-points in Clinton’s favor. 

When combined with the majority of survey research data; improvements for Democrats in Westchester and Hialeah, the two communities with the highest concentrations of Cuban-American voters in the United States; and exit polling; this  11-point shift in favor of Clinton weakens the argument that Cuban-Americans turned their backs on Clinton because of President Obama’s Cuba policy.

To paraphrase Sen. Rubio, we can now dispel once and for all with this fiction that Obama’s Cuba policy hurt Clinton’s chances.

Note: The 1 percentage-point discrepancy between President-elect Trump’s performance in this analysis versus the one by Obama’s Cuba policy detractors is due to an apparent mathematical flaw in their calculation since the correct process for finding the total mean for each candidate’s performance in the precincts is to add vote totals for reach precincts and then divide by the total number of votes for all candidates. Instead, they added percentages and divided by 30, which is incorrect.

About that “shift”….

Opponents of President Obama’s Cuba policies argue that by changing his position on the issue, Donald Trump’s performance among Cuban-Americans improved by 21 points, and that this is what clinched him the Sunshine State.

To make their case, they point to a September 2016 poll by The New York Times / Sienna College that indeed showed Clinton and Trump at 41-33 percent among Cuban-American voters. They then contrast the 33% figure with the Edison Research exit poll showing Trump at 54% with Cuban-Americans.

There are three big problems with such a sweeping conclusion:

  • First, The New York Times / Sienna College poll had a tiny Cuban-American sample of 40-50 people (for our purposes, we’ll just say 50). Such a small sample yields a margin of error of +/- 14 points. No serious analysis would rely so heavily on such a small sub-sample where the group in question was not the primary target of the research.
  • Even the Times’ own polling guru, Nate Cohn, cautioned readers to take the Cuban sample with a grain of salt.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-04-55-pm
  • This arguments cherry-picks (unreliable) survey results that support their thesis and ignores the overwhelming majority of (good) data that contradicts it. Sixty-two percent of Americans support ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, according to The New York Times. Similarly, a Bloomberg Politics poll—that nailed the election results—found that two-thirds of Florida voters, including 57% of Hispanics, support ending the embargo. Moreover, a Florida International University survey found that 55% of Cuban-American registered voters (a 743-person sample size with a +/-3.6% margin of error) support President Obama’s Cuba measures. The only reason why the President’s detractors would argue that a 50-person sub-sample is more credible than an academic study where its 743 respondents were the primary research target is because the results of the latter discredits their theory.

Certainly, if Cuban-Americans had “repudiated” Obama’s Cuba policy as some argue, Democrats would not have made 9 and 14-point gains in Hialeah and Westchester, respectively, in these two heavily Cuban and traditionally GOP suburbs in Miami-Dade County.

The argument that Cuban-Americans tilted the state in the president-elect’s favor is further weekend by historical trends showing that Clinton’s performance was among the highest best showing ever for a Democratic candidate among this electorate (regardless of one’s preferred exit poll). Republicans are supposed to win Florida’s Cuban-American vote. The fact that Clinton ended up in the 40’s and made inroads in Hialeah and Westchester is a good sign for Democrats and should be troubling for Republicans.

Of course, the most obvious problem with the argument by the opponents of the President’s Cuba policy is that it overstates the size and weight of the Cuban-American vote in Florida while ignoring the shifts that occurred among other demographic groups, namely the white non-Hispanic electorate that is 10 x’s larger than the Cuban-American (62% vs. 6%).

As Dr. Grenier of FIU and I pointed out earlier this week, the Cuban-American vote is still important but it was not decisive in this election. Even if Clinton’s Cuban-American numbers had improved by 10 points, she still would have lost the state. Meanwhile, had she and Trump simply replicated President Obama’s share of the white non-Hispanic electorate, Clinton would have gained an additional 467,000 votes and won the state.

As Steve Schale detailed, it was Trump’s strong performance in heavily white non-Hispanic suburban and exurban counties in Central Florida’s I-4 corridor, such as Pasco, Volusia and Hernando that won him the state not a questionable “shift” among Cuban-American voters.