Cuba

Hispanic Heritage Month 2008

Every year the United States takes a time out from September 15-October 15 to recognize the contributions of Hispanics in the United States as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanics are now recognized as the largest minority in the U.S. - the Census estimates that by 2042 one in four persons will be of Hispanic origin. As this year's Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off this week, it becomes clear that an unprecedented number of Latino voters could decide this year's election, Latinos are increasingly represented in government and industry, Latinos are a growing force in the media - as evidenced by the launch of shows like "Agenda" and "Al Punto" on Spanish language networks, and Hispanics are also becoming web and technology users in rapidly growing numbers.

For these reasons and more, the Pew Hispanic Center reported this week on a survey it conducted on the overall state of Latinos. The report reflects how Hispanics are bearing much of the current economic crisis, combined with suffering increased instances of discrimination.

Half (50%) of all Latinos overall (native and foreign born) say that the situation of Latinos in this country is worse now than it was a year ago, according to this nationwide survey of 2,015 Hispanic adults (higher than the average for non-latinos). Fully 63% of Latino immigrants say that the situation of Latinos has worsened over the past year. In 2007, just 42% of all adult Hispanic immigrants - and just 33% of all Hispanic adults - said the same thing. These increasingly downbeat assessments come at a time when the Hispanic community in this country--numbering approximately 46 million, or 15.4% of the total U.S. population--has been hit the hardest by rising unemployment.

Due mainly to the crisis in the housing and construction industry, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in the U.S. rose to 7.3% in the first quarter of 2008, well above the 4.7% rate for all non-Hispanics, and well above the 6.1% rate for Hispanics during the same period last year. As recently as the end of 2006, the gap between those two rates had shrunk to an historic low of 0.5 percentage points--4.9% for Latinos compared with 4.4% for non-Latinos, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The spike in Hispanic unemployment has hit immigrants especially hard. For the first time since 2003, the unemployment rate for Latinos not born in the United States was higher, at 7.5 percent, than the rate for native-born Latinos, at 6.9 percent, the report found. Latinos make up 14.2% of the U.S. labor force, or roughly 22 million people.

In addition to the economy, issues like immigration, access to health care, and discrimination continue to be of concern to Hispanics and to Hispanic voters. In the Pew survey, one-in-ten Hispanic adults - native-born U.S. citizens (8%) and immigrants (10%) alike - report that in the past year the police or other authorities have stopped them and asked them about their immigration status. Some Latinos are xperiencing other difficulties because of their ethnicity. One-in-seven(15%)say that they have had trouble in the past year finding or keeping a job because they are Latino. One-in-ten (10%) report the same about finding or keeping housing.

On the question of immigration enforcement, the Pew Center's research demonstrates the same data NDN found through our polling on immigration, released last week. Latinos disapprove of current enforcement-only measures - more than four-in-five Hispanics (81%) say that immigration enforcement should be left mainly to the federal authorities rather than the local police and 76% disapprove of workplace raids. Two-thirds (68%) of Latinos who worry a lot that they or someone close to them may be deported say that Latinos' situation in the country today is worse than it was a year ago, as do 63% of Latinos who have experienced job difficulties because of their ethnicity and 71% of Latinos who report housing difficulties because of their ethnicity.

Most Hispanics in the U.S. are native born, i.e., U.S. citizens legally not susceptible to deportation, therefore the fact that most Hispanics worry about raids, immigration, and even facing possible deportation reflects how the existing reckless "enforcement-only" policies are impacting not only foreign Hispanics, but U.S. citizens.

NDN has a history writing and speaking about the Hispanic community as one of the great American demographic stories of the 21st century, recognizing that it will be hard for any political party to build a 21st century political majority without this fast-growing electorate. Hispanics have become one of the most volatile and contested swing voting blocs in American politics, and they are responding to this attention. As reported in Hispanics Rising II, an analysis of the Hispanic electorate and their motivation, Hispanic immigrants are becoming increasingly involved, as reflected by the data released this week by the Immigration Policy Center, demonstrating a spike in citizenship applications. Immigrants want to be U.S. citizens, they want to apply for citizenship, often having to overcome virtually impossible obstacles to be able to pay the obscenely high application filing fees.

Therefore, political candidates will do well to pay attention to the many challenges facing Hispanics today. At the onset of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, both Presidential candidates released statements praising Hispanics' contributions to American society and their military service. The difference between the two statements is that Barack Obama also called for comprehensive immigration reform. On the other hand, John McCain didn't mention it. This is curious because polling for the last 3 or 4 years, including the latest polls conducted by NDN, consistently shows that immigration is of top concern for Hispanic voters.

Cowardice, Not Courage

It is clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose this election. After a series of lies and mischaracterizations that have been chronicled by numerous news sources, U.S. Sen. John McCain released an attack ad today about Barack Obama's record on immigration.  Having participated in the immigration debate during 2007 as a Hill staffer as it was happening, and having delved into the dozens of amendments thrown at the bill per minute by those who would try to block immigration reform, and having had to sort through all the "poison pill" amendments, I feel a responsibility to distinguish between truth and fiction in regards to an issue as important as immigration reform.  The truth is that Senator Obama proposed an amendment to the section on a temporary worker program in order to ensure that those workers are a paid a prevailaing wage - i.e., to help push wages up.  It is disturbing to see this attempt to misinform Hispanic voters, as members of the Democratic leadership are accused in this ad for having halted immigration reform, when they were the ones who presented the legislation to the floor and fought to have the issue voted on and passed - not once, but twice.  The reason immigration even came to a vote twice is that many Republicans - including President George W. Bush - also recognize the dire need to fix the broken immigration system, and there was thought to be enough support at the time for reform.  What really happened: there were insufficient votes to close debate and move to vote on immigration reform because the Republicans who had pledged to support the legislation caved to the anti-immigrant rhetoric and voted against cloture.  The truth is John McCain changed his position and did not participate in the 2007 debate to provide the necessary political leadership to pass reform.  And that could have made a difference - one could argue that it was John McCain's absence and lack of leadership on this issue that led to its demise.  I'll refer you to our Hispanics Rising report, where we track the immigration debate and John McCain's abandonment of his own reform legislation.  The truth is, John McCain abandoned the reform he had once promoted because he feared the political ramifications.  As reported by the Washington Post (see Hispanics Rising), John McCain told his party "I got the message", immigration reform was not popular.  Sadly, it remains very necessary.  

Here is the translation of the ad, called "Which Side Are They On":

ANNCR:Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?
The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail. The result:
No guest worker program.
No path to citizenship.
No secure borders.
No reform.
Is that being on our side?
Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
ANNCR: Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee. Approved by McCain-Palin 2008.

I must say, this ad insults my intelligence, and it is a shame because John McCain was the first to come out promising to keep this campaign "clean", and to not reach for baseless attacks like this one.  You will see below, McCain said, "Do we have to go to the lowest common denominator? I don't think so". Well Mr. McCain, you already have - this is just another example of how low you can go. Is lying to voters putting "country first"? I don't think so.

The "Nuevo Dia" Continues

As we have noted on this blog many times, the views of South Florida's Cuban American community are changing, giving the area's GOP incumbents their most serious challenge in nearly 20 years. (You may recall that one of the Democratic challengers is former NDNer, Joe Garcia.) What is allowing this to happen? As Time recently wrote in its article, Big Trouble in Little Havana, there are two reasons: More younger Cuban Americans are becoming eligible to vote, and the Cuba issue is viewed in relation to other issues like the economy, all of which affect South Florida and are believed to have been mishandled by the GOP.

On the New Generation of Cubans and related issues:

But the Miami challenges have caught the GOP off guard. Democratic voter registration in Miami-Dade County, as in other places, is up, and Republican registration is down. Some of the shift stems from elderly voters like Coto, but younger Cuban Americans are restless too. Like their elders, they want to liberate Cuba, but they also want to get by in Miami, where the middle class is shriveling and home foreclosures are soaring. "I'm not running for President of Cuba," says Martinez. "Cuban Americans finally see themselves as part of the wider U.S.A., and they care about other issues." 

On Cuba:

Still, a likely decisive issue in these races involves Cuba. In 2004, as a gift to conservatives, President Bush tightened restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Cuban Americans--only those who have immediate family members in Cuba--can now visit just once every three years and send only $300 each quarter. The move backfired: most Miami Cubans oppose the new rules, according to an FIU poll, and they have been particularly unpopular among younger Cuban Americans. That was a big reason Miami computer programmer and lifelong Republican Joe Infante, 47, who has relatives in Cuba he can no longer visit, is now a registered Democrat. The regulations, he says, "have kept Cuban families separated but haven't put a dent in the Cuban regime." The move suggests that leaders of Florida's anti-Castro movement may have lost touch with the region's changing demographics. What would have worked in 1985 to deepen GOP support had the opposite effect in today's more diverse Miami. Says Garcia, sipping a café cubano in Little Havana: "Bush succeeded in dividing what was once a monolithic vote for his party." 

All of this will make sense to those familiar with NDN's work on Cuba. In fact, the views represented above are consistent with what we found in our poll from October of 2006. They are also consistent with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's stance on Cuba, which Fareed Zakaria wrote about a few months ago. (You can see two examples of our coverage of Obama's position here and here.)

For more, check out a forum we held in February of 2007 where we discussed what a Post-Castro Cuba could look like.

Sunday Brunch With Obama

San Diego, CA - Showtime is a few minutes away, Barack Obama will address the largest civil rights group in the nation and deliver a much-awaited speech on his proposals on issues of importance to the Latino community.  The air is one of excitement and a great deal of anticipation.  One cannot understimate the importance of the group Barack Obama is addressing - those attending the NCLR conference are the most active community leaders, grassroots organizers, and advocates on behalf of the Hispanic community.  And these leaders will undoubtedly disseminate their impressions of Barack Obama's speech today and John McCain's speech tomorrow to their communities when they go back home. Obama is expected to deliver a message of empathy and unity with the Hispanic community as he speaks about the inequalities and stigmatization currently suffered by Latinos accross the country.  His speech has grown increasingly passionate, so everyone is anxious to see how he delivers his address to this intimate family gathering of about 2,000. 

A "New Day" for the Cuban-American Community in South Florida

One of NDN's most ambitious projects these past few years has been to help bring change to our outdated and ineffective policy toward Cuba, while liberating South Florida itself from the stranglehold of a very powerful hard-liner political machine that has grown up around the Cuba debate these past decades.

In these past few years, NDN, and its predecessor, the New Democrat Network, has run TV ads in South Florida attacking the ineffectiveness of the hard-liner strategy (embedded below); we've held events promoting a "new day" in the Cuban-American community; we polled extensively in Southern Florida, showing how the attitudes of Cuban-American community are changing; we've chonicled the broader demographic changes of the Hispanic community in Florida; we promoted a new policy toward Cuba, embraced now by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in his Presidential campaign; we conducted dozens of press interviews on TV, radio, in print, in English and Spanish, doing head-to-head battle with the forces of the old guard; we blogged and blogged about it here; and now excitedly, one of the architects of this strategy, Joe Garica (along with Sergio Bendixen), is running a very competitive race for Congress in South Florida against one of the greatest defenders of the old way, Mario Diaz-Balart.

This "new day" in South Florida is explored in great depth in the The New York Times Magazine today by David Rieff, in article called, Will Little Havana Go Blue? He writes:

In the past, both Democratic and Republican contenders tried to conform to the hard-line expectations they perceived as the overwhelming consensus within the Cuban-American community. But Obama has recently strayed from orthodoxy by criticizing aspects of the American embargo on Cuba and asserting that he is prepared to open talks with the regime. This might seem like a golden opportunity for McCain to solidify his hold on the Cuban-American vote, but Obama's views appear to be resonating in Cuban Miami more than anyone could have predicted. Two Democratic Congressional candidates in the Miami area - Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez - were added last month to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's list of potential "red to blue" conversions, bringing to 37 the number of seats nationally that the Democrats hope to flip away from the Republicans. For the first time, the hard-line consensus is being challenged. There is real debate in Cuban Miami these days about the embargo, above all about the series of further restrictions that were imposed by the Bush administration in 2003 and 2004. These limited travel for so-called people-to-people educational exchanges, abolished the category of "fully hosted" travel (under which travel to and from Cuba was underwritten by non-U.S. citizens and which Washington long suspected of being a scheme for money-laundering), reduced family visits to once every three years and limited the sending of money from Cubans or Cuban-Americans living in the United States to the sender's immediate family - parents, siblings, children - rather than, as before, to his or her extended family. A decade ago, support for such restrictions and any other confrontational policy was a certainty in Cuban South Florida. So was its domestic corollary: dependable support for Republicans both locally and nationally. Today, and quite suddenly, that unwavering support for Republicans is no longer a given.

Sergio Bendixen e-mailed me yesterday saying that we all should be very proud of this piece, and of the work we've done in South Florida these past few years. I am proud. But I hope, too, that those in the NDN community who've been a part of this path-breaking effort also are proud of what we've been able to accomplish - so far.

And what all this also means is that in this year, when the Presidential campaign has dominated the national political debate, there are some races in South Florida that while, ostensibly local affairs, will end up having a profound impact on the politics of Florida, and our policy toward Cuba and all of the Caribbean and Latin America. Look for the true national and international import of these races to become well understood in the next few weeks, and for these South Florida races to become among the most heavily covered, heavily financed and heavily contested of all the races for Congress this year.

EU Has Scrapped Cuba Sanctions

As reported by Reuters, the European Union agreed yesterday to end sanctions against Cuba, although it will insist the Communist island improves its human rights record. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters, "Cuban sanctions will be lifted," after foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc clinched agreement at a summit dinner in Brussles. Ferrero-Waldner added, "Of course there is clear language on human rights, on the detention of prisoners and there will have to be a review also."

According to EU sources, the decision - taken despite U.S. calls for the world to "remain tough" on Havana - will be reviewed after one year. Spain reportedly led the push for a softening in policy towards Cuba, meeting some resistance from the bloc's ex-communist members and the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt. The sanctions had already been suspended in 2005, and unlike the U.S. embargo, the sanctions did not prevent trade and investment. Regardless, this is a major policy change, and lifting the sanctions is at odds with the current U.S policy towards Cuba.

Despite the current hard-line approach to Cuba in the U.S., could the EU's decision foreshadow what might become U.S. policy under a new president? Reuters reported that a draft it obtained of the EU agreement calls on Cuban authorities to: improve human rights, including unconditional release of political prisoners, ratification U.N. rights conventions, and giving humanitarian organizations access to Cuban jails. This sounds very similar to what Sen. Barack Obama said just a few weeks ago as he delivered a major speech on Latin American Foreign Policy before the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF): "My policy toward Cuba will begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair."

Like Sen. John McCain, Sen. Obama would maintain an embargo on Cuba, but only as "leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations." Sen. Obama sees "principled diplomacy" as the way to bring about real change in Cuba. In his speech, Sen. Obama criticized what he called the eight years of "the Bush record in Latin America," i.e., having been, "negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples' lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the [American] region...The United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged....The situation has changed in the Americas, but we've failed to change with it. Instead of engaging the people of the region, we've acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally....the future security and prosperity of the United States is fundamentally tied to the future of the Americas. If we don't turn away from the policies of the past, then we won't be able to shape the future."

Sen. Obama's idea of a "new alliance of the Americas," at the center of that major speech, has been greeted with favor by Cuban-Americans from all political camps. It seems they agree with Sen. Obama's position that American politicians go "to Miami every four years, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba....the parade of politicians who make the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade."

Barack Obama's proposal for change with Latin America favors discussion with "friend and foe alike," in order to be a "leader and not a bystander." Under his proposal, Sen. Obama would:

1) Reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in the White House.

2) Expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas; expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to "deepen the trust and the ties among our people."

3) With respect to Cuba, he would allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island.

4) He would maintain the embargo, but also work with the Cuban regime to examine normalizing relations if it takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners.

5) Increase international aid, investment promotion, and economic development in Latin America.

6) Develop democracy through negotiations, "Put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We should increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law. That is how we can support democracy that is strong and sustainable not just on an election day, but in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas."

It's important to note that Sen. Obama delivered this ground-breaking speech and revolutionary proposals in front of the CANF - the group previously known for being one of the most hard-line on Cuba policy, rejecting anything other than the overthrow of Castro as acceptable policy. But the CANF applauded. Soon after that speech, the founder of Women in White, Miriam Leiva, and her recently freed dissident husband, Oscar Chepe, also wrote an open letter to Barack Obama; they applauded his offer to allow Cuban Americans to freely visit relatives here.

They also wrote that a more creative policy could help the transition towards democracy. It seems that times are-a-changing, and everyone recognizes that the status quo has not been effective for anyone. Sen.Obama and these groups are picking up on what NDN advocated before it was popular, before this change in public perception had occurred. NDN has been a pioneer on the issue of policy with Cuba; in 2006 NDN conducted an important poll with Bendixen and Associates. The poll showed that 72% of Cuban-Americans in South Florida were actually open to consideration of creative means of engaging the people of Cuba and its government to accelerate democratization. The poll also showed that support for the trade embargo, restrictions on travel and restrictions on remittances all dropped ten percentage points over one year.

John McCain and Barack Obama to address major Latino organization - National Council of La Raza National Convention

The LA Times reports that The National Council of La Raza, a leading Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, announced today that both presidential contenders have accepted invitations to speak at its July 12-15 convention in San Diego. No details yet on when each will speak, but their appearances likely will be among the most important they make during the month. As NDN has been actively pointing out, both the Democratic and Republican parties recognize the growing power of the Hispanic electorate. The LA Times interviewed Simon as it reported yesterday that Obama continues to lead McCain among Latino voters: Obama is "doing better than anyone imagined at this point," said Simon Rosenberg, head of the group NDN, which specializes in Latino outreach. "But he does have room to grow." The latest polls show Obama has a surprising advantage over McCain and is favored by up to 62% of voters. Below the LA Times graphic:

The Growing Influence of NDN's Hispanics Rising Report Reflected in the Media

On May 28, NDN released its most recent report, Hispanics Rising, which, using U.S. Census Bureau and exit polling data, documented the emergence of a new, highly energized and increasingly pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate. By all accounts, this bloc will have an enormous impact on the 2008 election. In Hispanics Rising, NDN identifies a trend that is underway and articulates the significance of the Hispanic vote and the differences within the Hispanic community.  After having been reviewed by experts, media, public officials and members of the private sector for weeks, we continue to see how the data collected by NDN, our analysis and the issues we highlight are influencing debate, and we would like to share the coverage of our report with our readers.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote that the old electoral map had been thrown out with new southwestern states in play in an article by Bill Lambrecht  

"...Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg contended that McCain's ad buy in the Southwest was a 'sign of weakness, not strength.'  Despite Obama's problems with Hispanics, Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network think tank, argued that McCain has no chance to match George W. Bush's success in drawing 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.  'Obama is going to be able to communicate in Spanish that John McCain threw Hispanics overboard when he dropped the immigration bill,' Rosenberg said, referring to McCain's decision to renounce some of his moderate views on immigration."

However, while discussing NDN's report with columnist Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, Simon also was quick to point out Barack Obama's challenges with the ever-growing Hispanic electorate:

Hispanics will be Obama's big challenge. "The latest national polls show that Obama is showing surprising strength among Latino voters, given the weakness that he showed in the primaries," says NDN president Simon Rosenberg.  In the same article, our friend and pollster, Sergio Bendixen, explains the relevance of our NDN's research by pointing out, "The Latino vote will be more important than ever in this year's election....The election may be decided by Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, where the Hispanic vote can decide who wins in those states.''  According to Bendixen, Obama needs to win the Hispanic vote by a margin of more than 55 percent in Florida, and by more than 65 percent in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. And if likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain gives the Democrats a fight in New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania, Obama will need to do even better than that in these states.

Full article on Hispanics Rising II:  Josiah Ryan, of CNSnews, quotes Simon at length to explain the importance of Hispanic voters and writes about NDN's position that John McCain may lose the general election if he fails to have at least as much support as George W. Bush obtained in this demographic in 2000 and 2004.  Mr. Ryan cited the statistics gathered by NDN throughout the article.  Also discussed in the article, the notion that Barack Obama is unpopular with Hispanics; before making such conclusions, Simon Rosenberg pointed out, "Things play out very differently in primaries then they do in the general."

Andres, quoted by Edward Luce in the Financial Times:  This article comments on the strategic shift in the Obama campaign, which is becoming increasingly concerned with Spanish-speakers and Hispanics.  Andres Ramirez speaks on the challenges Sen. McCain faces: "Senator McCain is not nearly as strong in the south-west as you would expect him to be," said Andres Ramirez, who heads the Hispanic centre at the New Democratic Network, a liberal think-tank. "And Barack Obama is not as weak among Hispanics as some people believe. He has spent more on Spanish language ads than any candidate in history."

The Kansas City Infozine:  In this article, NDN explains the increase in Hispanic voter turnout and the shift towards the Democratic Party among Latinos.  Simon is quoted, explaining how candidates use new tools and technology to reach Spanish-speaking audiences, "The Democratic Party has woken up and gets it. This is why the Republicans should be very worried. I think John Kerry's campaign was a little bit slow. That is not the case in 2008, the Democrats clearly understand the Hispanics' relevance," said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN.  Additionally, Andres refutes the idea that Obama is struggling with Hispanics: Andres Ramirez, vice-president for Hispanic Programs for NDN, said that Clinton's "aggressive" and "innovative" campaign for the Hispanic community is a part of the energy behind the pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate.

Marshall News Messenger:  Cox News Service's Bob Deans reported on NDN's projections on Hispanic turnout for the 2008 elections.  The article references the statistics presented by NDN and quotes Simon as he reflects on the influence of the immigration debate on voting trends and elections in key swing states, "This is a community that is much more Democratic than it was in 2004 and is going to be voting in much greater numbers," Rosenberg told reporters..."It is a new day. Hispanics are poised to play a very major role in the 2008 elections....The immigration debate has fundamentally altered the desire for civic participation in the Hispanic community," said Rosenberg. "They are blaming the Republican Party for the anti-immigration sentiment, the anti-immigration rhetoric in America today."

Andres is also cited, as he explains the challenges that John McCain will face with the Hispanic/Latino electorate: "It's a dramatic reversal from the 2004 elections, when George W. Bush won a second term in the White House with 40 percent of the Hispanic vote," said Andres Ramirez, vice president for Hispanic programs with NDN.  "Right now the GOP is nowhere near that level,"said Ramirez. That's a problem for the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, who hopes his Arizona background will help him with Hispanics.  "He needs to claw his way back up to 40 percent....I'm not sure he'll be able to do that," said Ramirez.

San Jose Mercury News: Frank Davie's article highlights the importance of key Western states with high Hispanic populations in determining the outcome of the presidential election and includes comments by the RNC's coordinator of Latino Outreach.  Additionally, it focuses on NDN's findings and employs quotes found in NDN's report regarding the importance of the Hispanic electorate:  Simon explains, "Those states are enormously consequential, and the large Hispanic vote there means McCain will face an uphill climb in keeping them."

San Francisco Chronicle:  Tyche Hencrick's piece explains the importance of the Hispanic vote in swing states, several of which have a surging Latino population and voter participation, as well as intensifying preference for Democrats.  Simon is cited throughout: "Hispanics happen to fall in these very consequential battleground states and may determine who the next president is," said Simon Rosenberg.  Simon added, "This is adding a whole new dynamic in this election that didn't exist in 2004 and may change this election."   Simon also discussed the shift that's taken place over the last few years, demonstrating Latinos are increasingly inclined to favor Democrats, "Starting in the fall of 2005, the Republican brand was severely degraded" in the eyes of Latinos, Rosenberg said, as a result of harsh rhetoric surrounding Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner's immigration enforcement bill that would have made felons of illegal immigrants and people who help them.  According to Simon, "That caused a huge swing toward the Democrats," he said.  There was also, "...an enormous increase in voter registration, citizenship applications and all measures of civic participation. ... Spanish-language media is spending an enormous amount of time on voter participation in a way that was not done in 2004."

And along with Spanish-language voter outreach, NDN's report was covered in Spanish Language Media/Press:

1) Univision:  The article is a translation of the article from the San Jose Mercury News, quoted above.  Univision highlights the increase in voter registration and turnout, and calls the Latino shift toward the Democratic Party "bad news" for the Republican Party.  The article includes comments by the RNC's coordinator of Latino Outreach, and uses the statistics from NDN's report, as well as quotes from NDN's report, for example, by Matthew Dowd. 

2) La Opinion:  Pilar Marrero reports that the Hispanic vote grows and becomes increasingly Democratic. Simon is quoted as stating that the growth of the democratic vote in swing states could provide the Democrats with a victory in this Presidential election.  Pilar also explains that NDN attributes this change to a reversal of the treatment of Hispanics by the Republican Party from the elections of 2000 and 2004, with the immigration debate being perceived as increasingly anti-Latino.  Simon explains, "McCain will have to win over a community that is less friendly towards Republicans, and he abandoned the immigration reform proposal that he had proposed, which will make it more difficult for him to regain Latino votes."

3) El Financiero:  The article emphasizes NDN's position that the anti-immigrant debate has been increasingly perceived as anti-Hispanic, which might shift the Latino vote, and quotes Simon as he describes this more "energized" electorate.  Andres is also quoted as he addressed concerns of the alleged rift between Hispanics and African-Americans; "he pointed out that these differences have not manifested themselves in elections."  Andres also explains that the shift in the demographics of states like Florida, where most Latinos were Cubans who usually supported Republicans, has changed with the arrival of Puerto Ricans and South Americans in the same area.

4) EFE News/Wires (AOL):  Highlights NDN's report that almost 80% of all Latinos who voted in the 2008 primaries voted for a Democratic candidate. The article also includes comments from an RNC spokesperson, head of Latino Outreach.  Simon is quoted, pointing out that Republicans face a challenge in obtaining the popularity among Latinos enjoyed by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.  Known for his keen ability to detect trends long before a tipping point occurs, the article shares Simon's insightful summation of NDN's report: "it is impossible to understand U.S. politics in the 21st century without taking the Hispanic community into account," as Hispanics have, "tripled their participation in primary elections from 2004." 

5) CNN Espanol:  This article mentions Barack Obama's discussion of Latin America policy and highlights Simon's comments regarding McCain's shift on the immigration debate, and how that could hurt him among Hispanics.

Additional references: 

Simon was quoted in a GOPachy, article entitled: "Political map could be redrawn on election day": "Democrats start with a core of 248 electoral votes," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a Democratic advocacy organization. Adding four Southwest states, including Arizona, would give Democrats the presidency with 277 Electoral College votes. Adding Florida and Ohio brings it to a knockout of 324, and adding New Hampshire and Iowa would deliver what he called an "enduring Democratic majority" of 335.  Pointing to polls that now show Obama leading McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as nationally, Rosenberg said the election "is leaning very heavily Democratic right now. Obama has the ability to win a landslide victory both in the popular votes and the Electoral College based on early trend lines."

Blog hit on Robert Ranting:  "Polls now show Obama leading McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as nationally. The election is leaning very heavily Democratic right now. Obama has the ability to win a landslide victory both in the popular votes and the Electoral College based on early trend lines."  Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN

Project 1 Voice:  "With nearly eight in ten Hispanic voters backing Democrats over Republicans in presidential primaries this year, the Latino vote could swing several key battleground states come November," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network.  "This is a community that is much more Democratic than it was in 2004 and is going to be voting in much greater numbers," Rosenberg told reporters during the release of a report by the organization looking at the growing political heft of Hispanic voters. "It is a new day. Hispanics are poised to play a very major role in the 2008 elections."

MyDD  Direct Democracy:  On Obama campaigning in the West and South West:  "Obama clearly has work to do," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy group that has studied immigration and the Hispanic vote.  But Rosenberg and Democratic strategists say, despite the slow start, the Illinois senator will win over the constituency, if only because the issue environment favors him . Hispanic voters, like other demographic groups, feel the effects of the economic downturn and have turned against the war, they say.  The article also mentions that the Obama campaign is mapping out a strategy that will include exposure in the Spanish language media and heavy campaigning in Hispanic areas - elements that have been part of NDN's recommendations to political campaigns for some time.  NDN has emphasized the importance of having paid advertisements in Spanish language media, registering Hispanic voters, and sending well-known Latino leaders and surrogates out on the campaign trail.

Lastly, NDN's Hispanics Rising report was discussed during Andres Ramirez's presentation at the "State of Latinos" symposium in Denver, CO.  Andres's participation was publicized in: Hispanic Business, PR Newswire, and the Denver Post.

 

Bush: Americans can send cell phones to Cuba

Following up on recent work on the power of mobile communications in the developing world, the Bush Administration has provided an important step on this issue in its Cuba policy. Americans will be allowed to purchase and pay bills for cell phones that they can ship to Cuba.

From yesterday’s New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

President Bush announced Wednesday that Americans would soon be allowed to give their relatives in Cuba cell phones to use. The move is intended to challenge Cuba’s new leader, Raul Castro, to make good on his promises of reform, by giving ordinary Cubans more freedom to communicate with one another and the outside world.

"If the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, they should be trusted to speak freely in public," Mr. Bush said, during a White House ceremony attended by dozens of Cuban-Americans, including the families of imprisoned dissidents. He added, "The world is watching the Cuban regime."Since Mr. Castro succeeded his ailing 81-year-old brother, Fidel, in February, he has initiated a series of changes in the country, including opening up access to cell phones, computers and DVD players.

But most Cubans cannot afford to buy such luxuries, Mr. Bush said, so the policy changes have amounted so far to "nothing more than a cruel joke perpetuated on a long-suffering people." He added, "If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful."

We at NDN applaud this move by the Bush administration, but the fact is that this move is far too little in terms of broader Cuba policy. It is a positive development that the administration is on board with mobile communications as a tool to advance human rights. The lessons from China and Egypt, among others, are too significant to ignore.

Un Nuevo Dia - In Florida, Hispanics Are No Longer Majority Republican or Cuban

Florida's Hispanic community is changing. Waves of new Puerto Rican, Mexican, Central and South American immigrants have made the historically powerful Cuban-American community a minority of the statewide Hispanic vote. And the Cuban-American community itself is changing, with many more post-1980 immigrants and 2nd generation American-born Cuban-Americans entering the electorate.

These changes have made the Florida Hispanic electorate much more Democratic, and much less open to the failed hard-line Cuban policies advocated by President George W. Bush and McCain. In 2006, a majority of those Hispanics who voted in Florida voted Democratic. New registration numbers from Florida show that there are now more registered Hispanic Democrats than registered Hispanic Republicans.

In a comprehensive poll of the Cuban-American community conducted by NDN in 2006, an overwhelming majority of Cuban-Americans favored negotiation with a Cuban government led by Raul Castro, and a majority of those who arrived in the United States after 1980 favored the relaxation of travel and remittance restrictions imposed by Bush and supported by McCain. The poll did not find deep support in the Cuban-American community for McCain's current Cuba policy, and there is a great deal of openness to the policy advocated by NDN and Obama that begins with the relaxation of travel and remittances to the island but does not include elimination of the embargo.

Its changing population is changing Florida's politics. The reliance of McCain on a failed, hard-line policy toward Cuba will not carry the weight with a very different Florida Hispanic electorate it once did. It is an old play out of an outdated, 20th century Republican political playbook, and while it may excite a small and shrinking part of Florida's Cuban electorate, it will not be a terribly effective tool for McCain to reach the increasingly Democratic and non-Cuban Hispanic population of Florida.

For more on Cuba and the views of Cuban Americans, visit our Web site to watch video of a forum we convened to discuss what a post-Castro Cuba would look like for the United States and the rest of the world.

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