Friday, February 12, 2010

Who benefits?

What impact will the departure of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart have on the Cuba debate in Congress? He has been an effective, hard-working advocate for his hard-line views on Cuba policy, and he has gained seniority in the House. As a result his departure will definitely be felt, although others will continue to advocate for the positions he holds, and in terms of votes on Cuba policy in the House, the numbers won’t change.

Or will they?

This would be a straightforward story of a resignation in a safe GOP district were it not for the decision of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart to leave his district and run in the one Lincoln is vacating.

Former Democratic campaign operative Giancarlo Sopo says that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is “being run out of the district because it's changing.” Democrats say their registered voters now outnumber Republicans in Mario’s District 25 (see the numbers at the Herald’s politics blog). Mambi Watch notes Mario’s declining share of the vote in that district: 65% in 2002, 58% in 2006, and 53% in 2008. Newsweek wraps these developments into trends that favor Florida Democrats in a year that isn’t shaping up to be favorable for Democrats nationwide. And the domain name has been registered, Miami New Times reports.

So far, Democrats seem happy to have the open seat in District 25 rather than 21, and Republicans aren’t saying a whole lot, which leads to the guess that they may be less happy.

Now back to the impact on the Cuba debate and a big, big hypothetical.

If the Democratic candidate were to be Joe Garcia, and if he were to win the election, it’s important to note that Garcia, formerly with the Cuban American National Foundation, is not an advocate of lifting the embargo. To my knowledge he does not advocate ending travel restrictions on Americans. What he did support in last year’s campaign was the measures that President Obama has now implemented with regard to Cuban American visits and remittances. Were he to be elected, the numbers might not change on major votes, but the Cuban American delegation in Congress would change; its consistent unity on all aspects of Cuba policy would probably end. There would be one member who embraces the younger generation that travels to Cuba and connects with Cuba, and is willing to look critically and practically at policies that have been in place for decades. That might be more important than a change in the numbers.

No comments: