How Charlie Crist Can Partially Solve the Cuban Embargo Conundrum

Yesterday, we went through the electoral difficulty that has been created by Governor Crist’s comments about lifting the 53 year-old Cuban embargo and visiting Cuba. Today let’s look at some potential ways Crist can solve this problem for himself and the Democratic Party.

First off, let me remind our readers that the embargo has been a largely non-partisan issue for over 50 years. Every administration from John Kennedy’s onward has maintained it, and some of the hardest line anti-Castro members of Congress have been Democrats. Also many Republicans with a libertarian bent from outside Florida such as South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford (who was actually born in Fort Lauderdale) and Senator Jeff Flake (R- Arizona) have been on the forefront of lifting trade restrictions. In the late 1990’s a group of younger more economically driven Republicans began to see the potential of the Cuban market for American goods and led by then Congressman Flake talked openly of lifting the restrictions. Several Republican officeholders including Congressman Flake traveled to Cuba.

But never had a Florida politician of note taken the aggressive stand Flake has until Charlie Crist did so this year. It is obvious that Crist never polled Miami-Dade County specifically when formulating his new policy position. He either looked exclusively at statewide polling data or at no data whatsoever. It is also possible his position was based on conviction, and if that is the case Crist deserves full marks for his political courage. Nonetheless, it is a position that is filled with peril.

Here are some ideas for Crist to walk this back without completely flipping his position:

  • Do not go to Cuba until after elected Governor. At that point the trip will be about deepening Florida trade relationships and potential cultural exchanges. As a political candidate a possible trip is a minefield and will send the absolute wrong signal to voters and importantly from where I sit to Castro’s friends in Moscow whose expansionist designs threaten the economic security of the United States and our allies.
  • Meet with Cuban-American Leaders in Miami for consultation and take the lessons from them to formulate an “evolving” position based on being exposed to more information. Demonstrate that Crist will provide the type of consensus-oriented leadership that Governor Rick Scott has failed to provide.
  • Aggressively buy time on Spanish language TV in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale TV market to define Crist as a compassionate populist that fights for working families including many in the Cuban-American community.
  • Consider Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle for Lieutenant Governor. This may not be a perfect pick or the right pick but merely floating that it is being considered might freeze some potential defections. This is the least important of the suggestions.

Crist’s position and poor poll numbers in the Cuban-American community threatens Democrats up and down the ballot. This includes several key State House races such as the reelection of Democrat Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, and the efforts to defeat Erik Fresen, Manny Diaz and other sitting Republican State Representatives.

It is important Crist takes some steps to move back towards the middle on this issue. Do not abandon his position entirely but temper it in such a way that the defections stop. The warning signs are ominous for the Crist Campaign, but it is still early enough that this problem can be solved reasonably well.


  1. Tom Bryson · ·

    Foreign policy blunders are the least of Charlie’s problems. Refusing to debate, ignoring and dismissing Senator Rich, may be a good strategy to win the Democratic nomination but it is a bad strategy for Charlie to get his old job back.

    One consequence of the Charlie Crist created chaos of 2010 concerns the little mentioned Democratic Candidacy of Congressman Kendrick Meek. When Charlie abandoned his bid for the Republican nomination and turned the Senate contest into a three way race it opened the door for the wealthy political neophyte Jeff Greene to challenge Congressman Meek. Like Charlie, Greene was a newly minted Democrat. Unlike Charlie, Greene had no record as a public servant, no record of restricting abortion, of being anti gay or pro gun. He had no record of giving public money to private schools and he hadn’t sponsored legislation to allow using chain gangs to manicure Florida highways.

    In that low turnout off year primary election over 528 thousand hard core pay attention Democrats came out to vote for Congressman Meek and in November, 1.1 million voters rejected Charlie for Congressman Meek. Charlie can’t give up the 528 or the 1.1 and have any hope of winning. Debating Senator Rich would help him earn those votes.


  2. Tom Moore · ·

    You should stick where he is on this issue and let the chips fall where they may. He is right on the issue.


  3. Tom Bryson · ·

    He may be right on but because establishing US foreign policy is beyond the responsibility of a Governor his comments are seen as pandering to the Cuban community. That’s exactly what it was and the Cuban community recognize that it was. The issue itself has little to do with it.


  4. #avoteforrichisavoteforscott · ·

    I’m disappointed in everyone’s reaction to this. Kartik’s analysis acts as if Miami is the state. Everyone is blaming Crist’s advisors. No people are pointing out the plan was flawed about the Miami Herald was looking for a predetermined outcome.


  5. Mark Lynn · ·

    The embargo should be maintained at least until the deaths of Fidel and Raul Castro. Those events should occur in the next few years. Then it will be time to reexamine our current policy based on the moves of their successors. One hopes that they will mirror those of post-Franco Spain, but time will only tell.


  6. Concerned Cuban Democrat · ·

    I totally disagree!

    This is exactly why this policy exists today because the small vocal exile Cuban community in Miami has held the entire United States policy by their terrorists actions


    The Vast majority of Floridians who support dropping the embargo and opening trade and travel for All Americans with Cuba FAR outnumber the small loudmouth terrorists who scare everyone including you obviously into not going to Cuba and doing the right thing!

    The little secret that this little group of exiles has is that they are such a small meaningless group that makes so much noise that everyone is scared if them,

    They are bullies and terrorists!

    Besides they are all Republican!

    As a Cuban American myself I am ashamed and appalled by your “Chicken S**t” response by even suggesting that Crist not go to Cuba!

    If Charlie does not go he will be just like you with no backbone and no leadership and he will be done!!!!

    You’ve got to face the bullies head on and tell them it’s over!!!

    And Charlie or whoever has the backbone to say its wrong and over and open free trade and travel with Cuba and actually have the guts to go is the only politician I’ll support and vote for!


  7. […] a candidate for Florida during an election year. He then goes onto suggest ways to soften the blow here. As usual, his analysis is brilliant, concise, and well-calculated. I read the same articles that […]


  8. […] Scott was inundating the airwaves with ads in Spanish and Governor Crist made multiple mistakes on the Cuban Embargo issues. However, Miami-Dade is seeing an unprecedented amount of attention for a Democratic campaign […]


  9. […] a half century of failure. It’s long been a time for a change though Charlie Crist’s misstep on this earlier in the year potentially cost him votes in Miami-Dade […]


  10. […] due to excellent polling done by specialists in Hispanic voting patterns that Charlie Crist could be very hurt in Miami-Dade County by taking the courageous stand he did. But Crist could have gotten past this issue much easier if […]


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