FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the GOP Gaining a Secret Hispanic Edge?

by STEWART LAWRENCE

Which of the nation’s two main political parties is more successful in wooing Hispanic voters?  The Democrats, of course.  In 2012, President Obama won a whopping 75% of the Hispanic vote, improving on the 67% he won in 2008.

But paradoxically, perhaps, it’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are more successful in recruiting and promoting Hispanic political candidates — and that could eventually result in huge gains for the GOP with Hispanic voters, too.

Currently, Democrats can point to only two prominent Hispanic national figures — Antonio Villaraigosa and Julian Castro — and both are just mayors, the former in Los Angeles, the latter in San Antonio.  Republicans, by contrast, already boast two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada, as well as two new Hispanic US Senators — Marco Rubio in Florida, and more recently, Ted Cruz in Texas.

And that’s not all:  in 2010, when Martinez, Sandoval and Rubio were elected riding a wave of Tea Party fervor, freshmen Republican Hispanics also triumphed in six House races.  Two of these newcomers, Jaime Herrera Butler in Washington, and Raul Labrador in Idaho, were the first ever Hispanic representatives elected in their states, and both were re-elected in 2012.

Recent GOP Hispanic victories didn’t just materialize out of thin air. While Republicans at the national level have adopted stances on immigration that have alienated many Hispanic voters, elements of the GOP who disagree with those stances have been quietly organizing a massive recruitment drive to attract promising Hispanic candidates – and it seems to be working.

The spearhead of the GOP effort is Ed Gillespie, George W. Bush’s former communication director, who heads up the Republican Strategy Leadership Committee (RSLC), and in 2012 served as a senior campaign adviser to Mitt Romney.  Gillespie has teamed up with Martinez, Sandoval, and other former top Bush Hispanic advisers like Lionel Sosa to try to shift the focus of GOP Hispanic communications, including Hispanic candidate recruitment.

In fact, much of the new effort is aimed at the state legislative level, where Democrats have traditionally ruled the roost.    Gillespie has set a goal of recruiting 200 Hispanic candidates for state elective office – with the expectation that 75 will win — in 2014.  That’s up from the 100 candidates that ran in 2010.  The RSLC has also doubled the budget to match its expanded recruitment goal.

You might think the Democrats are doing the same – but they’re not. Confident that their non-Hispanic candidates can appeal to Hispanics on the issues, they haven’t placed special emphasis on fielding Hispanic candidates at any level.  Democrats claim that Republicans are merely pandering to Hispanic voters, who won’t necessarily support Hispanic candidates – and shouldn’t — just because they share the same ethnic background.

But Democrats appear to be underestimating the desire of Hispanics to see other Hispanics hold elective office, especially at the national level, without having to rely on powerful “Anglo” politicians to speak for them.

Some Democrats in Hispanic-rich states like Arizona quietly acknowledge that their party has a long-term recruitment problem.  In the 2012 election, the White House openly backed Hispanic former Surgeon General Richard Carmona for the Arizona Senate seat left open by the retiring Republican Jon Kyl.  However, in an embarrassing blow, Republican Jeff Flake ended up beating Carmona handily.

Carmona’s defeat leaves New Jersey’s Bob Menendez as the lone Democratic Hispanic senator.  And Menendez’s political future remains in limbo because of an ongoing ethics investigation that has severely damaged his standing.

How much of a difference – with Hispanic voters —  does a Republican candidate’s ethnic background actually make?   Sandoval in Nevada won just 35% of the Hispanic vote; Martinez about 40%.   But both candidates vastly out-performed past GOP contenders.  For example, in New Mexico, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost to Democrat Bill Richardson in 2006 managed just 22% of the Hispanic vote.   Since Martinez won her general election contest by just 7%, her strong Hispanic showing – in a state where 39% of voters are Hispanic – was critical.

Moreover, since taking office, many Hispanic Democrats have rallied behind Martinez, in part due to her break with the GOP on immigration reform.   Last year, her approval rating among Hispanics in the state was a hefty 70%.  Ethnicity may not trump partisan affiliation – but with the right Hispanic crossover candidate, it clearly makes a huge difference.

On balance, Hispanic Republicans like Rubio, Sandoval, and Martinez seem far better positioned to make inroads with Hispanic voters than many observers assume.  All three are even being touted as possible candidates for the GOP nomination in 2016.   And a recent Latino Decisions poll found that Rubio and other top Republicans that have supported immigration reform could gain over 40% of the Hispanic vote nationally – enough to win Florida and other key swing states en route to capturing the presidency.

By contrast, the best the Democrats can offer is a possible slot for San Antonio mayor Julian Castro as their VP candidate.   A recent poll suggests that Castro’s candidacy might galvanize a third of Hispanic voters.  However, Castro is a political neophyte – as green as Sarah Palin was in 2008 – and most of the Hispanic voters that might swing his way are already in the Democratic camp.

What effect would Castro have on the general voter, including independents, especially if another breakthrough candidate, Hillary Clinton, were already the presidential candidate?  No major party has ever taken the risk of running for the presidency without a white male leader somewhere on the ticket.  Even Barack Obama, for all his ethnic cross-over appeal, chose an elder statesman like Biden to shore up his credibility and standing.

In fact, there’s another hurdle for Castro:  San Antonio’s electorate is nearly two-thirds Hispanic, barely a quarter White, and only 7% Black.  In contrast to the GOP’s Latinos, who owe their victories as much to Whites as to Latinos, Castro, despite being re-elected twice by a significant margin, has yet to demonstrate an ability to win over large numbers of White voters (just 7% of the electorate voted in his 2013 re-election).

In short, for all the talk of the Democrats’ long-term demographic advantage with Hispanics, Republicans, in fact, may have a significant and widening advantage of their own.   Assuming that the GOP can shed the albatross of its hardline stance on immigration reform – which is already underway — the Democrats could well find their current favor with the Hispanic electorate subject to challenge — as soon as 2014, and even more so, in 2016.

Stewart J. Lawrence can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

 

Stewart J. Lawrence can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

February 09, 2016
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail