President Obama's now official win in Florida not only enlarges his already comfortable Electoral College tally (332 electoral votes to his Republican challenger Mitt Romney's 206) but it also closed the gap among historically Republican Cuban-American voters in the Sunshine State.
The president won 48% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida, a historically high percentage for a demographic that — given its aversion to the socialist policies of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro — has overwhelmingly voted Republican, until now (Romney's did win this group with 52% of their vote).
Obama captured only 35% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida four years ago, which represents a gain of 13 percentage points this time around. In 2004, John Kerry won just 29% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida. In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore won 25% of it.
In addition, voters in Florida elected to Congress the first Cuban-American Democrat: Joe Garcia. Garcia, a former member of the Obama administration, defeated the incumbent Representative David Rivera (R-Fla.) who had faced a criminal investigation over its finances .
The shift in is mainly generational. The older guard, the ones who fled Cuba in the aftermath of Castro's revolution during the 1950s and 1960s were angry at JFK and the Democrats for the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961.
But as this generation dies off, and their children and grandchildren who were born and raise in America bring their more socially liberal values to the table, it's easy to understand how support for Obama's policies swells as they also reject what are largely perceived as the socially regressive policies of the Republicans.
Furhermore, since Obama eased traveling restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba in 2011 more Cuban Americans are moving beyond the policies of the embargo and embracing the chance to stay in touch and even visit their families on the island. This could also have had a positive impact in Obama and the Democrats' 2012 chances.