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Will Donald Trump’s violation of the Cuban embargo hurt him in Florida?

Sean Drakes/CON - Getty Images

This week’s Newsweek cover scoop by Kurt Eichenwald documents how, under Trump’s direction, his hotels, casino, and resort company spent a minimum of $68,000 on development projects in Cuba in 1998, thinly veiled as a charitable effort so as to bypass international trade law. Trump essentially cut corners to get ahead of the game in Cuba, anticipating an eventual thaw in U.S. economic sanctions. We should definitely take this to be further evidence of Trump’s shady business practices and skirting of the law for his own personal gain.

Historically, Cuban-American political exiles have favored the U.S. embargo, objecting to any olive branches offered to the communist regime that forced them to flee. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. prior to the rise of dictator Fidel Castro, is among that hardline class. Despite pressure from businesses to change his stance, Rubio has described Cuba as “adversarial” and “aggressive” and says he cannot justify softening the embargo when there has been no improvement in the country’s human rights record.

But opinions on the embargo are shifting. In 2014, President Barack Obama began a slow process of normalizing relations and re-establishing economic ties with Cuba after a 55-year embargo that has been estimated to cost the island nation at least $1 trillion in exports and tourism annually. A year later, polls showed 56 percent of Cuban-Americans in favor of lifting the embargo, while 36 percent opposed.

Florida boasts America’s largest population of Cubans, numbering over 1.2 million, a bit over 6 percent of the state’s overall population and 29 percent of the state’s Hispanics. With presidential polls as tight as they are there (RealClearPolitics estimates Hillary Clinton ahead by a margin of only 0.6 percentage points), it’s anyone’s game and Trump will want to steer clear of upsetting a key contingent of the Hispanic vote there.