MIAMI — Following his surprising victory in 2016, Donald Trump claimed he got 80% of the Cuban American vote in South Florida.
He was exaggerating.
But 2020 was a different story.
Years of courting voters with tough policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, a strong pre-pandemic economy, an unmatched Republican ground game in Miami-Dade and a targeted messaging instilling fear about socialism coming to America helped the president rally Cuban American voters, part of the reason he carried Florida.
Although Trump lost the election, his inroads into the Cuban American community in South Florida suggests trouble ahead for the Democratic Party.
Definite numbers for 2020 are still in dispute, but estimates reflect the Democratic Party's poor performance among Cuban Americans, and among Hispanics in general, in Florida.
While Trump won more Cuban American votes in 2016 than Hillary Clinton in Miami-Dade County, his margin was somewhere between 54 and 57%, below Mitt Romney's 60% share in 2012.
Separate analyses of tallies in more than 30 Cuban-majority precincts in Hialeah, Westchester and the suburbs of southwest Miami-Dade by Republican and Democratic strategists suggest that four years later, Trump made double-digit gains, getting as much as 69% of the Cuban American vote. Giancarlo Sopo, a Trump campaign staffer, and Carlos Odio, director of the Democratic research firm EquisLabs, independently concluded that President-elect Joe Biden's percentage of the Cuban American vote in Miami-Dade was in the low 30s.
But this might not be the whole picture, said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor and pollster at Florida International University. While Trump undeniably improved his numbers in heavily Cuban areas like Hialeah and Westchester, Gamarra has found less enthusiasm in more wealthy enclaves like Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
"If you're going to analyze the Cuban vote, you need to account for the vote in the entire county," he said. He cited several exit polls and others done close to the election of people who had already voted, including one poll he was involved in, showing that Trump got around 55% of the Cuban American vote.