Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Crist criticized for “flip-flop” after scrapping visit to Cuba

Posted on Monday, 06.23.14

Crist criticized for "flip-flop" after scrapping visit to Cuba
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate says he needs the time to focus
on principal opponent, Gov. Rick Scott.

TALLAHASSEE -- Charlie Crist has scrapped plans to go to Cuba this
summer, citing time demands in his campaign for governor and delays in
getting federal permission to visit the island nation.

"I had to make a decision," Crist said. "We've got to win this thing,
and we can't sap any more of my time or staff's time to the detriment of
victory. … I need to stay focused on Florida."

Crist's about-face was immediately called a "flip-flop" by Gov. Rick
Scott's campaign, and it follows a recent poll that showed his July
plans were not popular with Cuban-American voters in Miami-Dade, the
state's most populous county. Crist said his decision not to visit Cuba
had nothing to do with public opinion in Miami-Dade, where sentiment
about Cuba is more intense than anywhere else in America.

Crist caused a major stir last month when he called for lifting the 1962
U.S. embargo against Cuba, a stance that is gaining popularity with
Florida voters. But he went a bold step further and said he wanted to
see conditions there first-hand.

Crist said he still supports an end to the embargo and said he'll plan a
visit to Cuba next spring if he wins the election.

"We haven't changed our mind. It's just a timing delay," he said.

The poll of 305 Miami-Dade Cuban-American voters by Bendixen & Amandi
International, taken June 3-5, showed that nearly one in four, or 24
percent, would be less likely to vote for Crist if he visited Cuba and 5
percent would be more likely to vote for him. For 67 percent of voters,
it made no difference.

However, among Cubans, 42 percent said they would be less likely to vote
for Crist if he visited Cuba. The sample's margin of error was 4.6
percentage points.

"In my opinion, there was virtually no political upside for him to
travel to Cuba," said Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen &
Amandi, which has been polling Cuban-American voters for more than 35
years. "Charlie Crist could very well have been alienating Cuban voters
who were otherwise predisposed to vote for him."

The Bendixen & Amandi poll showed Crist is favored by 47 percent of
county voters and Scott by 35 percent, with 18 percent undecided.

Miami-Dade has a large and politically active population of
Cuban-Americans, many of whom fled their homeland after Fidel Castro's
revolution in 1959 and vote Republican. But Miami-Dade has been a
must-win county for Democrats in statewide elections for generations.

"I think it's a smart move. I think it was a loser from the beginning,"
said Dario Moreno, an associate professor of politics at Florida
International University and a political consultant.

Moreno has noted that Crist was the first major statewide candidate in
Florida to support an end to the embargo against Cuba after five
decades. But he said Monday that Crist could have found himself in the
politically perilous position of being photographed shaking hands with
one of the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raúl.

"It would have been very awkward," Moreno said.

As a Republican, Crist backed the embargo, and in his previous campaign
for governor in 2006, he criticized his Democratic opponent, Jim Davis,
for visiting Cuba on a fact-finding visit as a member of Congress.

A poll of 1,000 Cuban-American voters by Florida International
University's Cuban Research Institute, conducted between February and
May of this year, showed 45 percent opposed the embargo and travel
restrictions and 41 percent supported it, with 12 percent undecided. The
poll's margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.

Speaking for Scott's campaign, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera called
Crist's planned Cuba visit "disgraceful."

"Charlie Crist's vision for Florida's economy is to propose business
ventures with a failed terrorist state," Lopez-Cantera said. "Gov. Scott
and I stand with the Cuban-American community and their desire for the
Cuban people to be free."

Crist said his Cuba trip also was being stymied by the federal
bureaucracy and that it was taking a lot longer than anticipated for the
Treasury Department to process his request for a license to visit the

"It was dragging on and dragging on," Crist said. "We can just as easily
go there next spring."

Times/Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report.
Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com.

Source: TALLAHASSEE: Crist criticized for "flip-flop" after scrapping
visit to Cuba - Political Currents - MiamiHerald.com -

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