Rubio’s change of heart also came after Democrats, including Soto on a Tuesday conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee — the day after the Senate’s Aponte vote — cast his opposition as a slight against a key constituency in Florida politics: Puerto Ricans in the I-4 corridor.
“He won a statewide election, he knows the growing strength of the Puerto Rican vote, he knows the volatility and swing nature of that vote,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
McManus said that the up-for-grabs nature of that electorate stems from the fact that most are from the Caribbean island in contrast to the Northeast U.S., which tends to be more liberal.
“It’s a community that really is very much insistent on interfacing with candidates,” McManus said. “I am sure that Rubio knows that the Republican Party is putting a lot of the burden of carrying the Hispanic vote [in the 2012 election] on his shoulders, and I think that the realization that was a growing and burgeoning portion of the electorate probably ended up turning him.”
Rubio’s switch also came as the issue made its way into Florida and Puerto Rican media.