For Ana Navarro and Al Cárdenas, all is fair in love and war. The longtime Miami-based Republican strategists have known each other since the 1990s, back when Navarro was a “snot-nosed activist” advocating for Nicaraguans during the Sandinista revolution, she says, and Cárdenas was an “established name and successful lawyer.”
Nearly 30 years later, Navarro and Cárdenas married at a picturesque waterfront ceremony in Miami Beach, attended by actress Eva Longoria, singer Gloria Estefan, Navarro’s co-anchors on The View, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, and senators Mitt Romney and Bob Menendez. But, back in 2008, the two were in opposing political trenches: Navarro was the Hispanic chair for John McCain’s presidential campaign, and Cárdenas was Romney’s Florida chairman.
“We were at war,” Navarro recalls. “We got into some pretty heated televised debates. I always took advantage of Al because he was so chivalrous and would never throw the blows I would.”
“In those days, we didn’t live together,” Cárdenas says. “If we had different opinions or she wouldn’t speak to me, it was [still] good and I was always okay with [her]. Now that we live under the same roof and have been in love for a long time, I’m not going to get into a spiff with my wife over politics that’ll ruin our marriage. We might disagree, but it’s not a huge deal.”
These days, the couple rarely brings up politics, and their Miami home is neutral ground. Cárdenas, who is a lobbyist and lawyer, was the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida for two terms, an adviser to U.S. Republican presidents, and previously appointed as the special ambassador to Caribbean islands St. Kitts and Nevis. Navarro, who worked on national and state races in Republican politics, is a commentator on CNN, CNN en Español, and Telemundo. In August, Navarro was named as a permanent co-host of ABC’s daytime talk show The View. Though filming takes place in New York City, Navarro didn’t move for the gig, instead opting to take two round-trip flights a week so she can stay based in the Magic City.
“Miami is home,” Navarro says. “For both of us, it’s such a special treat to be home and sleep in our beds and play with our dog. When we are together with our 5-pound poodle, ChaCha, it’s okay because we’re home.”
Cárdenas and Navarro are often jet-setting across the country—sometimes in opposite directions. When their schedules align, they relish the simple pleasure of being at home together.
“We talk a lot more about our schedules than we do about politics at home,” Navarro says. “Getting them to coordinate and figuring out where he is going to be on any given week or where I’m going to be can be very challenging.”
When time allows, this power couple is big on date night, regularly sharing articles and posts they’ve come across about new Miami restaurants. They’re always on the hunt for Middle Eastern eateries, a nod to Cárdenas’ Cuban-Lebanese ancestry; a current favorite is Amal, a modern restaurant by a Beirut-born restaurateur in Coconut Grove. Whenever they travel, museums are always at the top of their list, which explains why they’re both fans of Leku, an eatery at the Rubell Museum in Allapattah that is inspired by Spain’s Basque region and saturated with contemporary art. When ChaCha tags along, the couple opts for Italian restaurant Luca Osteria or Greek eatery Calista Taverna, both with alfresco dining on the pedestrian-only Giralda Avenue in Coral Gables. They also enjoy attending concerts and Miami Heat basketball games at FTX arena.
“For a while we lived in downtown Miami, and it was very fun to just go across the street,” Navarro says. “We both really liked going to basketball games. It’s the only sport I will go with him to. It’s air-conditioned, the seats are padded. It’s a nightclub where there just happens to be a basketball game going on.”
Admittedly, Navarro and Cárdenas are two very different people. On the weekends, Cárdenas likes to play golf at the Indian Creek Country Club, and Navarro appreciates when he does because it gives her the opportunity to catch up with friends.
“We’re definitely not two peas in a pod,” Navarro says. “He is far more nice, far more polite, and far more gracious than I am. He watches endless hours of football. I watch endless hours of Real Housewives and The Great British Bake Off.”
While they might disagree on which candidate to bubble in on their Republican primary ballots, by November, the two are often in sync. They credit their shared immigrant experience as the foundation of their relationship: In the 1960s, Cárdenas fled Cuba with his family during the revolution. Two decades later, Navarro’s family did the same, except they fled Nicaragua when the Sandinista regime came to power.
“That’s what brings us together, having the sad, common experience of fleeing communism and, from one day to the other, losing everything,” Navarro says. “We have independent activities and independent schedules and lives, but we share values, common experiences, a common culture, and a common love of our hometown of Miami.”