MIAMI (WR) — Till not too long ago, Robert Lewis had by no means heard of Karen Bass, the California congresswoman in competition to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s working mate. However the current school graduate had lengthy heard tales from his grandfather recounting the times of oppression in Cuba beneath Fidel Castro.

When he discovered that Bass had referred to as Castro’s loss of life “an incredible loss,” the 22-year-old thought of it a disregard for the plight of those that suffered by the hands of Castro’s authorities.

“Via the tales from my grandparents and due to my upbringing, it makes me really feel like their experiences had been my very own,” mentioned Lewis, a political impartial who continues to be weighing his decisions forward of the presidential election.

Lewis’ response is a blow to Democrats who in recent times have tried to drag younger Cubans in Florida away from the Republican Get together, the political residence of a lot of their mother and father and grandparents. The subsequent era is much less targeted on the previous and open to vary, Democrats argued, as President Barack Obama embraced engagement with Cuba and in 2014 declared he would “bury the final remnant of the Chilly Battle.”

However Bass’s feedback present contemporary proof on the contrary. Whereas polling present younger Cubans in Florida open to new insurance policies, additionally they stay skeptical of the Cuban authorities and, specialists observe, cautious of politicians who aren’t. Even for some younger Cubans, the congresswoman’s remarks are troubling — and a reminder that Castro nonetheless stirs robust passions.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” mentioned one poster on a Fb group referred to as “Cubanos Con Biden,” a 6,000-member group partially run by the Biden marketing campaign. It has been dominated by dialogue about Bass in current days.

Hispanics account for one-fourth of the inhabitants of Florida, a crucial presidential battleground, and 1 in each 5 of its 13.eight million voters. The Pew Analysis Heart estimates that just about a 3rd of Florida’s Hispanic voters have roots in Cuba.

Republicans have lengthy dominated with these voters, partially by taking a tough line on sustaining the embargo meant to isolate the island and its now-deceased chief. However shifting views on the embargo have given Democrats hope.

A 2018 ballot of Cuban People in Miami-Dade County confirmed an enormous generational and age divide within the county of their views about U.S.-Cuba coverage. The ballot by Florida Worldwide College ballot discovered that amongst those that migrated to the USA earlier than 1980, about three in 5 opposed institution of diplomatic relations, whereas about 70% of those that had been born within the U.S. or arrived after 1980 had been in favor.

However the identical ballot discovered proof that Trump, who opposes the Obama-era insurance policies, might have hardened views. Assist for the embargo has grown amongst those that migrated earlier than 1980 with 68% in assist in 2018, up from 57% in 2016.

That’s not essentially proof that Bass and her feedback would harm Biden’s possibilities in Florida, famous Guillermo Grenier, the ballot’s lead researcher. Somewhat, he mentioned, it’s probably that many Cuban American voters have already solidified round Trump.

“The oldsters who’re pro-Trump are going to remain pro-Trump. There’s a small variety of undecided, but when they’re swayed by the choice of Bass as VP, they actually weren’t undecided,” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, Democrats are clearly nervous concerning the dangers.

Bass has walked again her remarks made after Castro’s loss of life in 2016 — that “the passing of Comandante en Jefe is a good loss to the folks of Cuba.”

No offense was supposed, Bass mentioned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“Lesson discovered. Wouldn’t do this once more,” she mentioned. “Talked instantly to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was one thing that simply shouldn’t have been mentioned.”

She didn’t take into account herself a Castro sympathizer, she added. “My place on Cuba,” she mentioned, “is basically no totally different than the place of the Obama administration.”

The apology wasn’t helped by journeys Bass took to Cuba as a member of Congress to study concerning the nation’s well being care system and as a younger activist within the 1970s.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban American, has referred to as the congresswoman a “Castro sympathizer.”

Bass is hardly the one Democrat to be hit with the cost. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., earlier this yr got here beneath fireplace for a tv interview during which he lauded Castro for a literacy program and asserted that it was “unfair to easily say every little thing is dangerous” in Cuba. Sanders misplaced Florida by almost 40 proportion factors in the Democratic presidential choice major in March, with Biden garnering 62% of the vote.

Such feedback are usually not only a drawback with Cuban People, mentioned Fernand Amandi, a Miami political marketing consultant who’s a Democrat and is of Cuban descent.

Bass’s feedback might peel away assist amongst different Latinos, particularly these from Nicaragua and Venezuela, who fled the oppressive circumstances of their native nations.

“The litmus take a look at in Florida is: Do no hurt, as a result of it’s a state that’s at all times determined by the thinnest of margins. Simply taking off the desk any section of the Florida voters might show deadly,” he mentioned.

If chosen as Biden’s working mate, Bass might turn into the primary lady and first African American elected vice chairman. She is on a brief listing of girls, together with U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, who’re mentioned to be finalists for the job.

For some Democrats of Cuban descent, Bass’ previous remarks aren’t sufficient to find out their vote.

“I might nonetheless assist Biden no matter who he chooses because the VP,” mentioned Adam Schwartzbaum, a 35-year-old legal professional in Coral Gables whose father and grandparents arrived in Miami after the Cuban revolution in 1961.

“We celebrated when Fidel Castro handed away. We nonetheless see him as a dictator who actually impoverished the island,” he mentioned. However his actual fear is that Republicans would use Bass’ remarks as distraction from what he referred to as the extra necessary objective of electing Biden.

“Proper now the main focus is to maneuver Trump out of workplace,” he mentioned.


Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Related Press author Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.