Puerto Ricans in Florida are probably going to vote for the Democrat in November, and that is a big problem for Republicans
In the 2016 Florida primary, voters of Puerto Rican heritage turned out to the polls in greater numbers than ever before, playing their most significant role ever in the electoral process. The state of Florida presently has over one million Puerto Rican residents, and immigration from the territory to Florida is only continuing to increase as the economic crisis of the territory deepens. Puerto Ricans have historically been one of the most independent voter blocks, switching back and forth between Democrat to Republican each election. In 2016, it appears the overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans will be voting for the Democratic nominee come November.
Over the last decade, Hispanic Democratic voter registration in Florida has risen by over 80%, in contrast, Republican Hispanic registration has risen only by 14%. This dramatic increase in voter registration of a group that makes up almost a quarter of the Florida electorate will be potentially detrimental to the Republican hopes at winning over Hispanics and the delegate-rich southern state. This is an ominous sign for the Republican party’s hopes at winning over Puerto Rican and other Hispanics in Florida, at least in this election cycle.
It is highly unlikely that most Hispanic voters, including Republicans, will come out in support of front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump and Cruz currently have very low favorability ratings with Hispanics, and this will likely not change due to their harsh rhetoric on amnesty and their support for building a wall along the Mexican border. Further alienating Puerto Rican voters is the fact that neither Trump nor Cruz fully supports giving the island Title 9 bankruptcy rights and neither has provided much regarding a work out plan for Puerto Rico’s failed economy.
The only Republican that could have given the party a realistic shot at winning over the Hispanic and Puerto Rican Florida voters was Marco Rubio. Rubio has a positive favorability rating among Hispanics, he campaigned in Puerto Rico, garnering the support of Puerto Rican voters, and made it clear he had a policy and plan to help stabilize the economy of Puerto Rico. As a result, he was able to win overwhelmingly in the territory, having the highest favorability rating among Hispanics in Florida.
Rubio dropping out of the race made it all but certain the eventual Republican nominee will have a difficult time generating enthusiasm among the Hispanic Republicans of Florida. In fact, based upon Trump’s and Cruz’s currently low favorability numbers, many Hispanic Republicans may stay home instead of casting their vote for either of the potential nominees. Further, it is unlikely Republicans will be able to win over any Hispanic Democrats and will likely only win a very small percentage of Independents. At this point, barring a miracle, a collapse of the Clinton campaign, or the unexpected, it appears the Democrats should be able to win over the Hispanic vote in Florida, possibly being a dispositive factor not only in the state delegate contest, but in the national election result as well.