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The great Latin Republican realignment didn’t happen in 2022. Now what?


Before Election Day last month, Republicans were poised for major victories, from a red wave in the House to control of the Senate. As part of those high expectations, they hoped the results would show Latino voters continuing to join their ranks. This prediction turned out to be wrong.

As with the midterm elections, what didn’t happen is as important as what did. Democrats haven’t lost ground among Latinos, but neither have Democrats significantly regained the ground they lost in 2020.

The big exception was Florida, where the two Republicans at the top of the ticket — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio — won impressive majorities among Hispanic voters. Elsewhere, however, the story was one of stability rather than Democrat slippage.

“Outside of Florida, we’ve seen a portrait of stability,” said Melissa Morales, president of Somos Votantes, a Latino advocacy and organizing group that worked to support Democratic candidates. “We held on”

The 2020 election has raised alarms among Democrats — and bold predictions among Republicans — about a realignment of the Latino vote. In 2020, President Donald Trump saw his support among Latinos jump 10 percentage points nationally, to 38% from 28% in 2016. In South Florida and South Texas, Trump made even bigger gains in some heavily Hispanic counties.

There were other reasons to think a major change might be on the way. Latinos are not a monolithic group, and many Hispanics share some things in common with Republicans, including religiosity and the small business economy. Some analysts have long viewed Latinos as a potential swing vote — and still do.

But while Republican gains in South Florida and South Texas have drawn the most attention, many strategists and scholars who track Latino voting habits said the real test of whether Democrats continue to lose ground this year would come in Arizona and Nevada, two midterm battlegrounds. each with fierce races for Senate and Governor.

“This was going to be the ultimate proving ground,” Carlos Odio of Equis Research said of the two southwestern states. “While there has been no return to pre-2020 levels, nor [of the Republican senatorial candidates] improved from 2020. … You have to judge it as a failure of the Republicans to exploit what seemed like the best opportunity they were going to have.

Nevada becomes ground zero of competition for Latino voters

The Democrats held the Senate seats in both states and won the governorship of Arizona while relinquishing the governorship of Nevada. Exit polls showed Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona won 58% of Latino voters, down slightly from President Biden’s vote share in 2020.

In Nevada, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who was seen as her party’s most vulnerable incumbent, captured 62% of Latino voters, almost identical to Biden’s performance in 2020.

Analysts are still sifting through election data. Exit polls, while scientific, can be inaccurate because they do not fully represent raw vote totals. Odio recently posted a series of tweets preliminary looking at models in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. He described Arizona and Nevada as examples of “perfect stability”.

One of the reasons Democrats did as well as Arizona and Nevada was because of a significant disparity in the resources invested in Spanish-language advertising. Overall, in those two states, Democrats outpaced Republicans by about a 5-to-1 margin, according to an ad-tracking source.

The Senate Majority PAC, which backs the Democrats, and affiliated organizations have spent about $16 million on Spanish-language television and radio in the two states. The Senate Leadership Fund, which backs Republicans, spent almost nothing. The SLF concluded that in Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters was unlikely to win and that officials did not want to waste money in what appeared destined to be a losing campaign. In Nevada, because other Republican groups were spending on Spanish-language media, the SLF did not invest much.

JB Poersch, Senate Majority Chairman PAC, said the strategy is not just to invest but also to invest early. Efforts by organizers knocking on people’s doors to get them to vote remain key to reaching Latino voters, he said, but added, “You can’t just knock on someone’s door. . You need to talk to them well in advance… It’s about reaching those voters early on.

One of the Democrats’ most successful efforts, in terms of party margins among Latino voters, came in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman beat Republican Mehmet Oz and overthrew what had been a held seat. by Republicans. In heavily Hispanic neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Fetterman has done better than Biden in 2020, analysis shows.

Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist who specializes in reaching Latino voters, said there was an under-the-radar operation in Fetterman’s name to appeal to hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who now live in the state. During the final weeks of the campaign, with the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, he lobbied for ads on the games’ Spanish-language broadcasts.

“I knew I wouldn’t have a more focused audience than on the Phillies’ Spanish simulcast in the World Series,” he said.

Florida tells a similar story of resource disparity, only this one favoring Republicans. Democrats have been heavily spent in Florida, in part a strategic move by national party leaders reflecting the state’s continued shift to the GOP and the apparent strength of DeSantis and Rubio. If Democrats hope to turn the tide among Hispanics in Florida, it will come at a steep price.

Matt Barreto, a Democratic strategist, said pre-election polls offered clues that the Latino vote in the Southwest might not change this year, as some analysts suggested. “I haven’t seen any evidence that Latinos are becoming more conservative,” he said.

Democrats celebrate election results as rejection of GOP extremism

He said pre-election polls showed Latino voters were aligned on many issues with the Democratic candidates – they were upset about the overturning of the Supreme Court ruling. Roe vs. Wadestrongly supported the Cut Inflation Act, felt that climate change is an issue that needs more attention, and supported gun safety legislation.

“To the extent that Republicans got any attention, it was really because Latinos, like many voters, were frustrated with the cost of living,” Barreto added. “The mistake they [Republicans] fact was [in assuming] that all Latinos blamed Joe Biden.

In the home races, Latino voters helped Democrats win several competitive districts, including a newly drawn district in Colorado, which will be represented by pediatrician Yadira Caraveo, and two South Texas districts targeted by the republicans. But they lost other seats in districts with a high percentage of Latinos.

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Barreto said where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has invested heavily to appeal to Latino voters, the results have been generally positive. But he said Democrats need to dramatically increase their investment in Latino voters in the coming years. If they do, Rocha said, districts with significant Latino populations that remain in Republican hands, such as California’s 13th and 22nd districts and Texas’ 15th district, could be ripe for reclamation over the course of the year. of the presidential year of 2024.

Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Coalition, while generally optimistic about Latino support for Democrats, nevertheless acknowledged that the party had missed some opportunities. “It’s not perfect, and there’s work to be done,” he said.

Odio summed up the mid-term results with a caveat for both sides. “There was discontent,” he said. “The Republicans couldn’t take advantage of it. So they essentially fought to a draw, which benefited the Democrats, and both parties lived to fight another day. It was a skirmish in another war.


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