Posted by Eddie Bejarano on March 14, 2016 in Blog

6767979825_3b78521787_o.jpgAs Florida heads to the polls tomorrow, March 15, the Arab American community is ready to leave its mark on one of the country’s most politically, and symbolically, important primaries. 246 democratic delegates and 99 republican delegates are up for grabs. By Wednesday morning, both parties may have a much clearer picture of who their presidential nominee will be and like in Michigan, Arab Americans in Florida are looking to play a vital role in the outcome.

For Republicans it’s a winner-take-all state which means a victory for Donald Trump, will only reinforce the idea that he will be the party’s nominee. Sen. Marco Rubio hopes to keep his campaign alive by winning his home state, but he is not polling well. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz has decided to up his Florida effort in the hopes of forcing Rubio out. Gov. John Kasich’s campaign is not expected to perform well in Florida so has turned its attention to winning the 66 delegates at stake in Ohio’s winner-take-all contest. 

According to NBC-Marist surveys Secretary Hillary Clinton is comfortably leading Sen. Bernie Sanders by 61 to 34 percent in Florida. With the Sanders’ campaign focused on Tuesday contests in Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina, it appears as though he has all but conceded the sunshine state to Clinton. However, it is important to note that Sanders was also projected to lose handily in Michigan but instead pulled off a significant upset.

Florida is home to over 300,000 Arab Americans and they hope to use their voice to make an impact on Tuesday. In speaking with Arab American Florida residents Carol Mackoul, Rasha Mubarak, and Jay Farhat, it is evident that no one is completely sure what to expect; yet, they all hope that Mr. Trump does not emerge victorious.

Democrats Carol Mackoul, a resident of Jacksonville and Rasha Mubarak, a resident of Orlando, are divided on who to support. Mackoul sees Clinton as a more complete, and tested, candidate than Sanders although she acknowledged that he has brought a lot of energy to the race. Mubarak will be voting for Sanders because of the ‘authentic grassroots nature of his campaign’. Additionally, with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry on the rise, Mubarak feels that Sanders’ previous civil rights activism helps him understand the prejudice many Arab Americans now face.

On the other side of the aisle, Jay Farhat, a 24-year resident of Jacksonville, spoke about the dilemma he faces as an Arab American Republican . While Farhat wants to support Kasich, he is concerned that voting for him in Florida may be a wasted ballot. Nevertheless, Farhat feels that he cannot get behind Trump because of the disdainful rhetoric he has used on the campaign trail. Farhat also criticized Republican candidates for turning their campaigns into ‘a circus’.

The importance of Florida in both the general election and primaries cannot be overstated. Florida has a healthy history of either making or breaking presidential campaigns. This year is certainly no different. Similar to other states where there is a sizeable Arab American community, the Arab American community in Florida is composed of a variety of perspectives, meaning that the community, contrary to old assumptions, is not a single-issue constituency.  This dynamic will be evident in voting booths across the sunshine state tomorrow.