During those Bush years, Puerto Ricans in Central Florida gave Jeb the vote because he knew how to reach them. He had lived in Puerto Rico, would bring in elected governors and legislators from the island to Orlando and Kissimmee rallies and, of course, he speaks Spanish, which never hurts.
There’s more to it than playing salsa or speaking Spanish, though. Democrats don’t have the organization that Republicans do in Miami-Dade, and part of that has to do with the Balkanization that still exists. Twenty-somethings of every ethnicity and race can be seen hanging out together in South Beach or Midtown, but when you check political offices you often find that the key people advising Democrats look just like them, white or black, few in shades of brown. And having to play defense against Republicans doesn’t always resonate. What’s the Democrats’ message?
Obama won Florida, but it was more a testament to his own re-election team’s organization than anything the Democratic Party did. Heck, just two years ago, at the height of the tea party frenzy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink wouldn’t even mention the president. Instead of defending healthcare reform, she scampered away, and lost to a man who didn’t even get the majority vote.
When you check on several of the young Republican bucks that have been elected in recent years in Miami-Dade, you find that they started out as interns for legislators, many of them non-Hispanics, in Tallahassee. They gained experience on how the system works, and they built connections from the Panhandle to the Keys. If Democrats really want to build on their get-out-the-vote success, and ensure it’s not a flash in the political pan, they need to get out and groom young Hispanics.