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Pictured from left to right: Republican FL Senator Rick Scott, former vice president Mike Pence, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Advocacy groups fill the gap for political messaging catered to reach Latinos. Republicans are putting their candidates front and forward. Photos: Getty Images

Republicans gain ground with Latinos ahead of midterms as they heighten outreach efforts

A new poll found Republican favorability among Latinos in the U.S. increased in contrast with 2018. Many voters have yet to hear anything from midterm hopefuls.

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Although support for Democratic candidates in Congressional races from the Latino voting bloc has remained strong, a new poll by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) found that Republican favorability is steadily rising, signaling a shift in voter sentiment.

NALEO’s Educational Fund and polling arm, called BSP Research, ran a survey of 532 Latino registered voters nationwide that are more than likely to vote in the upcoming November 2022 election and contrasted the results with polls ran during the 2018 midterms.

“Five weeks into our tracking poll, it’s become clear that Republicans have gained significant ground with Latino voters since the last midterm cycle,” said Arturo Vargas, the association’s Chief Executive Officer in a statement. 

In 2018, Democrats counted on the Latino bloc as a solid base, and roughly 71% of voters said they would vote Democrat, compared to 20% support for Republicans. However, in 2022, the margin closed, with 55% of voters in favor of Democrats, against 30% for Republicans.

The poll signaled a changing posture towards conservative-leaning ideals, which Latinos historically find hostile, according to NALEO’s data. 

“Latino voters are perceiving Republicans as less hostile towards them compared to 2018, and Republican outreach to Latino voters is at its highest level in our five weeks of polling,” Vargas continued. 

Messaging and outreach continue to play a significant role in whether Hispanics not only register, but show up at the ballots and confidently select a candidate they feel best represents their viewpoints.

Yet voters surveyed across several polls expressed that political candidates conducted limited outreach, if any, which resulted in unconvinced voters. What surveys find across several Hispanic demographics is a disengaged electorate with little to no messaging catered to their communities. 

“Latino voters are not apathetic, they are unconvinced,” said Clarissa Martínez De Castro, a VP at UnidosUS Latino Vote Initiative.

“[Latino voters] are sending a wake-up call to both parties, which remain underwater compared to previous peaks in Hispanic support and persist in their chronic under-engagement and under-investment in these voters.” 

And Republicans might have sprung from their slumber. Rick Scott, a Florida Senator and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told CBS News he anticipates a large Latino turnout, even beating numbers from the previous midterms.

He adds an increasing favor for Republicans, which current data supports. 

"The most important thing to me that Republicans need to do is get out and talk to Hispanics across the country and listen to them," Scott said. "And don't do it in the last four weeks of a race, but do it your entire race. And you'll hear what they care about.”

Scott used the buying power of the NRSC to launch “Vamos,” a multi-state initiative to sway voters by way of canvassing, door-knocking, and placing 20 operatives across critical battleground states. 

NRSC, in partnership with the Republican National Committee, has invested millions to court Hispanics. In May, a Mike Pence PAC launched a six-figure, Spanish-language ad buy in May featuring a woman who fled Venezuela, and who is also extremely critical of the Biden administration. 

The ex-vice president’s ad evoked tropes of socialism, which the Republican party often leverages to equate Democratic policies to tragedy-stricken countries like Venezuela and Cuba. 

The Florida Senator’s sentiment is not isolated. Many advocacy groups have conducted targeted outreach – including a six-figure ad buy from Building Back Together, a Biden ally group – to communicate the Biden administration’s agenda to Latino communities, in the hopes that successes would be understood.

“If you get into the weeds of it, there’s a lot of really great policy, but ultimately what people care about is how is this putting more money in my pocket to be able to go into the grocery store and not feel like I have to decide between the electricity bill and a loaf of bread,” Mayra Macías Chief Strategy officer for Building Back Together (BBT), told AL DÍA. 

BBT has also reached deep into its pockets to drive messaging and awareness toward Biden’s legislative wins on Capitol Hill. 

Commercial campaigns have thus become a battlefield for targeted messaging to see which party resonates with Latino values, especially as they become a swing vote in key battleground states like Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. 

BBT has deployed its own operatives, and told AL DÍA they were working with community leaders to mobilize communities, a strategy political leaders on the Democratic flank could take a page from.

“Clearly, the message is not getting out in some of these policy issues,” said Vargas. “There’s plenty of data that we’ve obtained about what Latino voters care about in this election cycle, and I think the parties and the candidates need to pay attention to that.”

In Texas, candidates regroup

The New Republic reported Texas Senator Ted Cruz is doing some groundwork of his own as he elevated Mónica De La Cruz Hernández and Mayra Flores — two rising stars in the Republican Party in Texas — in a fundraising event. 

Cruz told The New Republic that all he had to do was to “essentially let them shine.” 

Despite the fact that Republicans boast harsh immigration policies, data says it remains a low concern for the Latino electorate, allowing the conservative camp to hone in on crime — in numerous cases linking crime to immigration — inflation, and abortion. 

De La Cruz Hernández and Flores are running for Texas House Districts 15 and 34 respectively, two seats that have served as the few remaining Democrat strongholds in the Lone Star State and are reckoning with a very real shift.

Just a few weeks away from the midterms, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCCC) has been slow to the draw in endorsing the South Texas candidates, in addition to canceled ad reservations scheduled for the end of the month, two factors that hurt momentum for Dem candidate Michelle Vallejo, the front runner in TX-15. 

DNCCC’s approach compounds hurdles faced by Latina candidates fighting to be at the forefront of local politics. Inaction from establishment support drew criticism from political activists, notably, Olivia Juliana, who is also the Political Director for Gen-Z for Change..

“How can you say you want to fight for us when you won’t support viable candidates? You aren’t fighting. You’re throwing in the towel because you’re comfortable with losing,” Julianna wrote on Twitter. 

Vallejo mostly avoided tackling her opponent on ideological grounds, but waning support may have forced her hand. Recently, Vallejo’s campaign, for the first time, criticized her opponent’s stance on abortion.

Pennsylvania’s “lealtad

In Pennsylvania, Senate candidate John Fetterman took the lead for Hispanic outreach when he released two Spanish-language ads voiced by his wife, PA Second Lady Gisele Barreto Fetterman. 

In contrast, his opponent, Dr. Oz, has no notable commercial strategy and is doing some damage control of his own after damning allegations surfaced against him regarding experimental research that resulted in the death of hundreds of puppies. 

Fetterman’s work did not address policy issues, but has an edge when it comes to their support in the polls, and is ahead of Dr. Oz by a wide margin. 

In the governor’s race, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Senator Mastriano’s strategy observed an overlap. 

Shapiro has been on the ground for months as he tours North Philadelphia with Democratic party leaders, as well as radio messaging of his own. He then told small business owners of an incoming program, should he be elected, to reform the government’s operations as it concerns access to permits, applications, and infrastructure. 

Mastriano, in turn, held one event in Philadelphia, organized by the Hispanic Small Business Union, for the Hispanic community. During the event, he touted his opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s response to the pandemic, which resulted in business shutdowns to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

It remains to be seen whether candidates will continue to address cogent issues for Latinos, with less than a month to go until voting. 

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