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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Analysis of the 2004 Race

From Brendan Miniter of the Wall Street Journal:

Let's start where the last presidential election ended--Florida. The Sunshine State is becoming increasingly Democratic as more middle-class seniors retire there from the Northeast. But, as in many states, the key to winning is the Hispanic community, and in South Florida that largely means Cuban-Americans. Al Gore managed to do well by distancing himself from President Clinton's callous decision to seize Elian Gonzalez at gunpoint and deport him.

This year the Cuban test isn't as clear, but Mr. Kerry may have already failed it in responding to a question by the Miami Herald. Mr. Kerry told a Herald reporter that efforts to petition the Cuban government for basic freedoms were "counterproductive," because they landed hundreds of Cuban-human-rights activists in the gulag. Mr. Kerry would have done better to check with Jimmy Carter before answering this one. The former president has praised the Varela Project, including while on a trip to Cuba.

Meanwhile, as The Economist reported last week, there is mounting evidence that Republicans are successfully making inroads with Hispanics across the country. On several issues--education, religion, taxes--Hispanics naturally find themselves in line with the GOP. The No Child Left Behind Act resonates in the Hispanic community because fewer Latinos between 19-25 have a high school diploma (73%) than blacks (89%) or whites (93%). President Bush won 35% of the Hispanic vote in 2000 (near the 1984 Republican record of 37%), and the Bush campaign can reasonably hope to reach 40% this year.

The Economist quotes Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat and the son of a Mexican immigrant: "The problem with Democrats is that sometimes they take our people for granted." New Mexico's population is 43% Hispanic, and Mr. Gore won the state by only 366 votes. Hispanics are also key voters in Iowa, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state--all close states last time out.

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