Exit polls showing the powerful Cuban-American community in Florida favored President Obama "“ which would make him the first Democratic nominee in decades to penetrate that Republican Party stronghold -- suggest a seismic political shift in the nation's largest swing state.
Obama's growing appeal among Cuban-Americans, coupled with his overwhelming popularity in the booming Puerto Rican community, signals trouble for the Republican Party and threatens to repaint Florida from purple to blue if the trend continues.
While Republicans are recriminating about the Hispanic vote nationwide, the flagellation is especially painful in Florida, with its bounty of 29 electoral votes.
"It's a huge deal, and it's a very deep and very wide issue that were going to have to address as Republicans," said Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry. "We're going to have to figure out if we're serious about having a relationship with diverse communities. I can't believe these numbers, and we have to fix them."
Fox News and the Pew Hispanic Center reported that Cuban-Americans favored Obama 49 to 47 percent. The population has been one of the Republican Party's most loyal constituencies since the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco under President John F. Kennedy. Since Ronald Reagan, presidential candidates have made pilgrimages to Miami to roil crowds with declarations of "Cuba libre!" and "Cuba si! Castro no!" Romney aired an inflammatory Spanish-language ad late right before the election that featured Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro's niece speaking in favor of Obama.