FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the GOP Gaining a Secret Hispanic Edge?

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

 

More articles by:

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

February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail