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Hillary Clinton expands her lead among Latinos in Florida, poll says

MIAMI–Hillary Clinton has grown her lead among Florida Latinos in the past month, according to a new poll that for the first time shows the Democrat tied with Donald Trump among Republican-leaning Cuban Americans.

Latinos prefer Clinton by 58-28 percent, according to the new Univision poll, up from 52-29 percent in September. Libertarian Gary Johnson drew 4 percent, down 2 percentage points from last month, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein remained at 2 percent.

Clinton is now approaching the 60 percent threshold President Barack Obama hit with Florida Latinos against Mitt Romney in 2012. Romney won 39 percent of them; Obama ended up winning the state by a single percentage point.

Part of the reason why: Clinton and Trump are dead even among Cuban Americans, with 41 percent support each. Exit polls in 2012 showed that Obama and Romney essentially split that vote.

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That’s a “tremendous disadvantage” for Republicans who have historically relied on older Cuban Americans in Florida, said Anthony Williams, special projects director at the Coconut Grove-based Bendixen & Amandi International, which helped conduct the poll.

“As the historic exiles are unfortunately dying off, they’re being replaced by Cuban Americans who were born in the United States — who are much more progressive in their politics,” he said.

Last week, Newsweek reported that Trump’s hotel and casino company broke the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba in 1998 — a potentially serious problem for exile hard-liners who fiercely back the embargo. Clinton has already hit Trump over the revelation in Florida radio ads in English and Spanish.

Trump visited Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood two days before the embargo story was published to meet with a small group of Cuban Americans. But they were invited guests who had already been persuaded to vote for him, not undecided voters typically courted by presidential nominees ahead of a general election. Trump has yet to run a political ad in Spanish.

Bendixen & Amandi and The Tarrance Group surveyed 400 registered voters in English and Spanish from Sept. 26-Oct. 4. The poll’s error margin is plus-or-minus 4.9 percentage points.

The survey also found Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio essentially tied among Latinos in the U.S. Senate race, with Murphy edging Rubio by 46-45 percent. Last month, Rubio led by 46-39 percent. Murphy would likely need a bigger margin among Latinos — who outside of Cuban Americans tend to vote Democratic — to defeat the Republican incumbent.

“If you look at that race compared to what’s going on in the presidential matchup, you could make the case that Hillary has a small lead because she has a small lead among Hispanics,” Williams said. “Murphy is making up ground since our poll a month ago, but there are still significant numbers of Hispanic voters who simply don’t know who he is — particularly among those who are Spanish-dominant.

“He either needs to camp out on Univision 24 hours a day or dramatically increase his advertising budget in Spanish,” Williams said. “Those who don’t know him may break his way — but not if they don’t know who he is.”

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Murphy recently hired Coral Gables consultant Freddy Balsera to Latino strategy and messaging. The Jupiter congressman released his first Spanish-language ad attacking Rubio last week, and gave an interview — dubbed into Spanish — on Mega TV’s “Ahora con Oscar Haza” in Miami. Rubio, who is bilingual, promptly countered with his own Spanish-language ad, one of several he’s run in the general election.

On Friday, The Libre Institute, a conservative Latino group funded by the industrialist Koch brothers, predicted that Latino turnout in Florida will be 65 percent, up from 62 percent in 2012. That increase puts Latino turnout at one-fifth of Florida voters.

An affiliated political group, The Libre Initiative, is campaigning for Rubio.

Another poll of Florida Latino released this week by the Associated Industries of Florida business group, showed Clinton thumping Trump by 54-30 percent. AIF political chief Ryan Tyson said it was possible for undecided Latino Republicans to break Trump’s way — but they are too few to put him over the top with Latinos.

“Trump will not win Hispanics here in Florida,” Tyson wrote in a poll memo.

The Clinton campaign has noted that Trump lags 10 points behind Romney among Florida Latinos and whites.

“We still have, I think, a little bit of expansion with both Latino and African Americans,” a senior Clinton official told The Miami Herald earlier this week. “(Trump’s) way behind with Hispanics compared to Romney.”

A Quinnipiac University poll of all Florida voters found Clinton opening a small 46-41 percent lead over Trump since last week’s presidential debate.

For Clinton, the way she’s perceived among Latinos improved across the board. The demographic now views her even more favorably than unfavorably — 62-37 percent — than it did a month ago — 58-40 percent. Trump’s net negative rating has remained essentially unchanged, with 30 percent viewing him favorably (identical to last month) and 69 percent unfavorably (up by 1 percentage point from last month).

Asked who would be better handling voters’ top issues, Clinton bested Trump on the economy (60-29 percent, up from 47-33 last month), terrorism (54-36 percent, up from 48-34 percent) and immigration (58-28 percent, up from 52-30 percent). Asked who’s more honest and trustworthy, Clinton topped Trump by 51-27 percent, up from 41-27 percent. Who’s got a better personality and temperament for the presidency? Clinton, by 62-24 percent, up from 53-24 percent. Who’s best qualified for the White House? Clinton, by 59-25 percent, up from 52-27 percent.

Fifty-seven percent of Florida Latinos said Trump’s campaign is racist, while 38 percent opined that was a media exaggeration. Those numbers are higher against Trump in three other heavily Latino battleground states — Arizona, Colorado and Nevada — where a majority of Latinos are of Mexican descent. Trump kicked off his campaign saying some Mexicans who cross the border are “rapists.”

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©2016 Miami Herald

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