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TALLAHASSEE - Florida Republicans have got to be worried. Very worried.
After decades of dominance among Hispanic voters, the GOP is in freefall. Statistics issued by the Secretary of State this week show that there are now more Hispanic Democrats in Florida than there are Hispanic Republicans for the first time on record.

Even more startling is the fact that the demographic shift has occurred in rapid, dramatic fashion. Just two years ago Republicans held an advantage of 50,000 Hispanic registered voters, 409,237 to 358,837. [Florida Secretary of State statewide voter file, 4/06]

Now Democrats are on top by 3,000, according to the most recent statewide voter registration rolls - 418,339 Democrats versus 415,086 Republicans. [Florida Secretary of State statewide voter file, 5/08]

The implications for the 2008 elections are huge. Charlie Crist is the only Republican candidates to win statewide without winning the Hispanic vote. However, Crist pulled an unusually high 18% of the African-American vote to win with 52% of the total vote. Unfortunately for the GOP, there is no Republican on the ballot this year that can expect to come anywhere near Crist's total.

"Republicans have got to be extremely worried. They cannot win Florida without Hispanics," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Alejandro Miyar said. "The Republicans' troubles - from mismanagement to outright disrespect to years of hollow promises on Cuba are causing Hispanics to leave the GOP in droves. Hispanics know that the Republicans are responsible for the war in Iraq, the weakening economy and the increase in taxes and insurance costs."

Since 2006 - when Democrats won the statewide Hispanic vote for the first time according to exit polls - Republicans have gained less than 6,000 voters in comparison to the Democratic increase of more than 63,000. [2006 Florida Exit Poll, exitpoll.htm, Florida Secretary of State statewide voter file, 5/08]

There are now 1,178,515 total Hispanic voters registered in Florida with Democrats representing 35.50% of that total, Republicans 35.22% and Independents 29.28%.

Click here to view a table of these statistics.

While the past few years have seen a trend toward independent status, 2006 marked a turning point as Hispanics turned to the Democratic Party. Independent Hispanics have continued to gain vote share but Democrats have gained significantly more - while Republicans have declined precipitously.

In 2008, the speed picked up, with Democrats making leaps and bounds while both Republicans and independents lost ground.

"Hispanic Floridians - whether they're Puerto Rican or their family came to this country from Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico or anywhere in Latin America - view the Democratic Party as the one that truly welcomes and respects them as Americans," Miyar said. "We want and deserve the opportunity to access affordable healthcare, stronger schools and better jobs just like all Americans do. The Republican Party may claim to support our values, but their policies prove the opposite is true."

Miami Herald - Democrats tout shift in Hispanic voting


Hispanic voters registered as Democrats have overtaken Hispanic Republicans in Florida, signaling a trend that, if it continues, could have far-reaching implications for the 2008 election and U.S. foreign policy.

Until now, the politically influential, mostly Republican Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade made Florida the only state in the country where, among Hispanics, Republicans outnumbered Democrats.

April voter registration statistics show 418,339 Hispanic Democrats statewide, compared to 415,068 Hispanic Republicans and 345,108 registered with neither party, according to a Florida Democratic Party analysis of state data. The state provides registration data sorted by party and race to the public only in the month before an election.

The growth among Hispanic Democrats is striking. Since January 2006, when the state began identifying voters as Hispanic, Democratic registration has increased 18 percent. Hispanic Republicans grew by only 2 percent, while Hispanic voters choosing neither party are up 14 percent.

The trend reflects a fierce competition between the two major parties for the Hispanic vote, which could represent as much as 15 percent of the electorate in 2008. Florida Democrats are touting their expanding influence in the Hispanic community, while GOP officials say their registration and get-out-the-vote drives will be more aggressive than ever this year.

''There are a few states where the Latino vote is going to be critical -- definitely Florida, as well as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada -- and those are going to be battleground states in the national scope,'' said Lindsay Daniels, a strategist at the National Council of La Raza, a nonpartisan Hispanic advocacy group.

Both demographic and political shifts are fueling the increase in Hispanic Democrats in Florida.


Demographically, the voter registration statistics are the latest sign that immigration from Latin America and younger generations of Cuban Americans are diluting the influence of the older Cuban-American community. Those dedicated voters heavily favored Republican candidates and a hard-line policy toward Cuba.

Politically, an unpopular Republican administration saddled with the war and the rising costs of living has hurt the GOP's image in recent years. A poll by the Pew Hispanic Forum released in December also found that the incendiary debate over illegal immigration was turning some Hispanic voters away from the Republican Party.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, who pushed a crackdown on illegal immigration, lost out to rival John McCain, who favors a more moderate approach.

Millie Herrera, president of the Hispanic Democratic Caucus of Florida, said she has felt the backlash at recent naturalization ceremonies in Miami Beach.

''It used to be discouraging because I saw a lot of people registering Republican, but there was nothing you could tell them because you can't talk about anything partisan when you're registering voters,'' Herrera said.
``In the last year and half, it's been completely reversed . . A lot of them tell us they're disgusted with the direction the country is taking.''

In Miami-Dade, 46 percent of the Hispanic voters are registered Republican, down from 59 percent roughly a decade ago. About 27 percent are Democrats.

In Broward County, the state's Democratic stronghold, 42 percent of the Hispanic voters are Democrats, while 27 percent are Republicans.

Florida Republican leaders have seen the numbers and say they are stepping up their efforts. On Saturday the state GOP will host a Hispanic Leadership Conference in Orlando, headlined by U.S. Rep. Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

The GOP consistently won the Hispanic vote in Florida until 2006, when the community leaned Democratic. GOP officials say they can beat the Democratic Party in getting Hispanic voters to the polls..

''We have significant Hispanic populations in pockets across Florida and Republicans are actively reaching out to them,'' said the GOP state party's spokeswoman, Erin Van Sickle. ``More importantly, over the long term, the Republican Party will continue attracting Hispanic voters because it is the party that represents the Hispanic community's values: a strong family, hard work, and personal freedom.''


GOP leaders also note that McCain, the all-but-official nominee, won the Hispanic vote in Florida's Jan. 29 primary. The front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, lost the Hispanic community to rival Hillary Clinton.

On Thursday, McCain released a new Spanish-language Internet ad: McCain, Plan Económico. His campaign announced this week that he will attend the National Council of La Raza annual conference this year in San Diego -- an event he skipped last year.

Event updates will be posted at www.fladems.com/calendar

Paid for and authorized by the Florida Democratic Party, www.fladems.com.