Democrats in downward spiral among Hispanic Americans in key battleground states
Polls are consistently showing Latino defection from the left in Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Texas
November 1, 2022 9:09am
Updated: November 1, 2022 11:23am
A nationwide shift of Hispanic Americans toward the Republican Party, particularly in key battleground states could be a dealbreaker for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.
For decades, Democrats have been able to count on a solid Latino base to win Congressional elections and the White House. Hispanic American voters have become a key ingredient to Democratic victories in specific districts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida Nevada, New Mexico and even Texas.
But that base appears to have dissolved this election season as polls are showing that some Democrats are in trouble.
In Nevada, which has a majority-minority state with a 30% growing Hispanic population, Latina Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is now considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection. Polls show Cortez Masto is virtually tied with Republican nominee Paul Laxalt, and Democrats are so worried about the election that they’re sending in former President Barack Obama for reinforcements to rally their base.
Some Republicans say the race represents of a major inflection point that proves the Hispanic red shift is real. They attribute part of the shift to former President Donald Trump who began winning over Latinos since his 2016 presidential run, and also the growing dissatisfaction with the Democrats increasingly leftist leaning political agenda.
According to Daniel Lee, a political science professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hispanic voters do not have blind loyalty to the Democratic Party. In a recent interview with US News and World Report, Lee explained that the Hispanic vote “is not a monolithic group… Nevada is super-close. it's still a swing state.”
Nevada is also a “transient state” which means that voting impact can change from election to election. Nevada is also known for having dual residents who go back and forth between California or other states, making it unpredictable which states some of those voters may cast their ballot in this election season.
Republican candidate Adam Laxalt has spearheaded a charge to recruiting Hispanic American registered voters across the states. He’s been running ads in Spanish and even has a “Latinos for Laxalt” outreach organizations that focuses on key issues resonating with Hispanics.
Experts say many Latinos are still upset about the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns which hurt the demographic economically since many of them work in the hotel industry in Las Vegas. who experts say were disproportionately hurt by the pandemic lockdown. And while many young people in Nevada are also of Latino descent, they are less likely to vote.
While some polls still have Democrats ahead in Nevada, Republicans have made strong gains. A recent Echelon Insights poll showed Laxalt with 56% Latino backing and Cortez Masto with 40% Hispanic support. That poll has the two candidates tied overall, each with 45% support.
Another poll by CBS/YouGuv, however, shows Cortez Masto with 58% Latinos support and Laxalt with only 40%. Univision's poll also has the Democratic candidate ahead, reporting that Cortez Masto had 60% Latino support and Laxalt with only 27% Hispanic support. While those numbers sound significant, that poll shows Cortez Masto leading Laxalt overall by only two points, 44% to 42%.
In Florida, GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis outshines Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by a significant seven point lead, 51% to 44%, among Hispanics, according to a Telemundo/LX News poll. In 2020 then candidate Joe Biden only won Miami-Dade County by seven points, a devastating plunge from Hillary Clinton’s 27 point victory in 2016. Joe Garcia, the former head of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party called the shift a “bloodbath” in a Nov. 4, 2020 interview with the Washington Post.
“The biggest driver of the GOP's gains among Latinos has been in Florida, experts say, with Republicans very effectively using accusations of a Democratic "socialist" mission to wrest support from Venezuelans, Guatemalans and other Latin American-rooted groups that fled socialist or authoritarian regimes,” writes Susan Milligan from US News and World Report.
Democrats had hoped in September their numbers would make a comeback after DeSantis authorized flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, but two polls recently released by Telemundo/LX News and one by Futuro Media show he’s the most popular political leader in Florida among Latino voters.
A recent MSNBC column this week by Julio Ricardo Varela was titled, “Ron DeSantis’ popularity among Latinos is the fault of hapless Democrats explains the breakdown in the Sunshine State.
“The Future Media poll shows that 43% of likely Latino voters have a "very favorable" view of DeSantis, and 9% have a "somewhat favorable" view of him for an overall favorability rating of 52%. Sen. Marco Rubio has an overall favorability rating of 50% and former President Donald Trump, 48%. Latinos account for 21% of the state’s eligible voters,” Varela wrote.
Varela says that even as Democrats were condemning DeSantis’ decision to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Venezuelan conservatives in Florida were showing support for the move, adding that “it’s not just Venezuelans or even conservative Latinos.”
The Telemundo/LX News poll says that 50% of Florida's Latino likely voters approved of DeSantis flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard, and only 43% disapproved. In totality, 56% of the Latino likely voters polled approved of DeSantis' job performance.
In addition to sinking numbers in Florida and Nevada, once reliable strongholds in Texas are now fading from their usual deep blue status.
While many may suspect that Latinos would side with Democrats on immigration issues, Hispanic voters are actually saying the crisis at the southwest border is one of their top concerns. For some Texan Latinos, it’s the most important issue.
When asked by Quinnipiac which party would address the border crisis better, 53% named Republican Gov. Greg Abbott over his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke who only garnered 44%.
That’s a nine-point gap.
Despite media pundits illuminating Abbot’s bussing of migrants crossing the border in Texas and transported to northeastern cities such as New York, 48% of Latinos polled supported Gov. Abbott’s policy, compared to 51% who opposed it.
“To be sure, these voters have a nuanced view of the choice they face,” says Brookings Institute writer William Galston in a recent Sept. 29 essay titled, ‘Are Hispanics Leaving the Democratic Party?”
“For example, on what for them is the second-most important issue—abortion—they disapprove of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade by 61 to 35%, and they trust O’Rourke over Abbott to handle this issue by a 15-point margin, 54 to 39%. But if the Quinnipiac survey is correct, their doubts about O’Rourke’s approach to the border more than counterbalanced their concerns about abortion.”
Another recent poll by a Texas television network conglomerate and the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation also give Abbott a 7-point lead overall although that poll placed O’Rourke ahead of the Texas governor by 14 points, 53 to 39%.
ADN America reported in September that many reports coming from Arizona showed the state was up for grabs and may narrow down to a heated battle.
Latino voters in Arizona have tended to lean Democratic as evidenced by the results of the 2020 election. An estimated 600,000 Latinos voted in the 2020 election in Arizona, and 71% of them voted for President Joe Biden, a push that may have been responsible for winning him the state, according to a poll conducted by the Latino Decisions research group.
But Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and senate candidate Blake Masters are making significant strides to capture the Hispanic vote. Lake launched Latinos for Lake Coalition in March and Masters launched his own Hispanic coalition in September. Their Democratic rivals, Sen. Mark Kelly launched a similar organization in June as did Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
In a recent Arizona Mirror interview, one Democratic operative said she was shocked at how many potential voters she met who said there had been no prior outreach.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have been canvassing or our volunteers, our organizers, have been canvassing and they hear from folks that they have not only never gotten a knock on their door, that they have never gotten a knock on their door from someone who spoke their language,” said Arizona Democratic Party operative Angela Ramirez.
Reports indicate the Arizona Republican Party got started their Hispanic outreach later than Democrats this year. The party launched “Operación ¡Vamos!” in April with the help of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The operation said last month it had contacted 250,000 voters, the most Hispanic voters the state party has purportedly reached in an election cycle. Republicans in the state say they have been reaching out to voters in both languages—English and Spanish.
“The energy and the Hispanic community are on OUR side,” the Arizona Republican Party wrote in a news release. “Hispanic voters know that their voice matters and that only Republicans will protect the American Dream. We look forward to building the Arizona first party of tomorrow that emphasizes every day that ALL Arizonans deserve better.”