How the news tackled covering the Latino electorate this election cycle
AL DÍA spoke with some members of the CBS News national team to get some insight.
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The Midterm Elections are just days away and Americans across the country will soon get a glimpse of the future of the country after a divisive election cycle that has seen huge storylines, and a record number of early voting.
Election Day is Nov. 8, and candidates are vying from all demographics, but specifically the Latino community, which could play a vital role in many swing states, and are growing in wealth and power.
Grappling with that newfound importance and attention in the lead up to Election Day has been journalists that are trying to redefine the ‘Latino vote’ in the U.S. and more responsibly interact with Latino communities on the issues that are important to them when going to the polls.
For Latino members of CBS News’ coverage team ahead of the midterms, it’s been about expanding the purview beyond just the ‘Latino vote,’ which has been treated mistakenly as a monolith in previous election cycles by both parties.
To break down the team’s approach in 2022, AL DÍA spoke with a number of Latino members of the CBS News team to see how they were doing it different in hopes it will shape future political coverage of Latino communities.
Fin Gómez is the political director at CBS News and the first Latino to hold this position at the company and across any of the broadcast networks. He told AL DÍA how a different aspect of the coverage this year has specifically focused on Latino voter turnout. It was a new approach for this cycle understanding the voting power Latinos have held, and will continue to hold into the future.
“The Latino demographic has always been a crucial vote that can decide tight elections,” said Gómez before highlighting how Latino communities in oft-overlooked places like Georgia and Wisconsin can have a huge impact. “One of the fastest growing demographics in Wisconsin is the Latino community.”
Beyond aforementioned states like Georgia, Gómez also said CBS has correspondents covering tightly-contested races in Arizona and Nevada — where a tight senate race between Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Adam Laxalt is coming down to the wire because Latinos are not overwhelmingly voting Democrat compared to previous years.
“She does have the majority of Latinos supporting her in that state but it's not the overwhelming amount that she had last time around,” said Gómez. “We look at that and we look at how voters are coming out to vote, what are the issues that's driving them.”
Recent polls and reporting suggest much has changed about the Latino community in regards to party allegiances, and policy concerns. Issues like immigration have gone down the list with inflation, crime, and the economy being at the top.
“What you are seeing is that the number one issue in most polling of Latino voters, whether it be CBS News’ polling or other outlets, they share the trends that we're seeing. That is inflation, and economic issues. Pocketbook issues such as gas prices, these are aspects that are really significant. It's one of those issues that impacts the largest swath of our population,” said Gómez.
These are trends being seen all across the country, and it creates some unity not just within the Latino community, but American voters of all backgrounds.
This year has also seen a record number of Latino and Latina candidates running for office. On that end, CBS News has touched base Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congresswoman Mayra Flores, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Nevada U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto to name a few that have been interviewed.
The Latino vote is a crucial one in these elections that can very well determine the political trajectory of the country. Gómez is not surprised to see that the Latino community holds such power in their hands.
“I saw it coming,” said Gómez. “There's significant political power of power that the Latino community now yields. It's happening now and It'll happen in 2024.”
For him, he has covered many midterm and presidential elections, but he has never seen one quite as politically divisive as these ones, making the analogy to it being like a teapot that’s just started to steam and whistle.
“That's where we are now in our American political process. I'm not surprised but I didn't expect it to be as divisive as it is,” Gómez said.
A veteran journalist and former anchor at Noticiero Univision, currently at CBS News, Enrique Acevedo, has been on the ground in Florida during this election cycle. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 26% of Florida’s population is Latino and early voting has surpassed 2018’s numbers with over 33 million votes already cast nationwide.
Acevedo spoke to the growth, but how many of the long-standing barriers to participation are still in place and getting harder to ovecome.
“There's a myth that Latino voters are not engaged with the political process, or not enthusiastic about politics. That argument ignores the fact that there are cultural and structural barriers to Latino voter participation, especially in states like Texas, and Arizona that have strict voter restriction laws and the gerrymandering that goes on when they designed the electoral maps.”
He also spoke on the trend of large Latino turnout during the 2018 and 2020 elections and how that will continue into 2022’s elections.
“We can expect more of the record turnouts that we've seen. Latinos are animated and engaged, especially as we start to address some of the cultural and structural barriers that we've seen, which have limited their participation in the past and also as candidates are starting to invest more time, energy and resources in reaching out to those voters,” said Acevedo.
In Florida specifically (and elsewhere), the veteran reporter also spoke to the misinformation plaguing Latinos and gave some insight into why they’re the main targets. He alluded to the fact that in many Latin American countries, there's an inherent distrust in media because of how it has historically sided with the structures of power like corporations and authoritarian governments. Acevedo says Latinos are more exposed to it because the community spends more time consuming media online than other groups.
“That's where you see a proliferation of this disinformation. Until now, the war against disinformation had been primarily being fought online and in English. Now the efforts to help audiences distinguish fact from fiction are focusing on this new front of Spanish-language talk radio that is popular with Latinos,” he said.
Florida also has a key race in the senate with Republican Senator Marco Rubio facing off with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Val Demings and a gubernatorial race between incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis and Charlie Crist. The contests make Florida one of the states that will get more eyes during Election Day.
Despite the major contests, Acevedo didn’t think the Sunshine State was worthy calling a “swing vote anymore.”
“That's why it's so important, especially for Democrats, because a lot of the issues that are going to be highlighted in the 2024 presidential election — immigration, climate change, this idea of our freedoms, and how we use them is all playing out here in Florida, and it's playing out against Democrats,” said Acevedo.
In the governor’s race, DeSantis has the potential to be the first Republican governor in over 20 years since Jeb Bush to win Miami-Dade County, which has been historically blue. That’s where Acevedo has his sights in the coming week to see if those predictions turn out to be true.
“I think it's going to be fascinating to see what happens in Miami-Dade, and South Florida in general,” said Acevedo. “They have allowed Republicans to be competitive and if they lose that, it's going to be almost impossible for them to compete in this state.”
Ed O’Keefe, formerly of the Washington Post, is CBS’ Senior White House & Political Correspondent, and has been closely following these elections for the last year-and-a-half. Amid the contentious election cycle, there have been many surprises and some not so much.
The major difference between this midterm cycle and ones in the past is the decision to repeal Roe v. Wade, which saw a galvanization of Democratic voters.
“Normally, it's the party not in power that gets more motivated and hungrier to win and the party in power is a little more complacent, '' said O’Keefe, but this year, special elections in Kansas and New York showed a rebuff of Republicans on some fronts, especially the abortion issue.
He also alluded to how in the last few weeks as seen in CBS News’ polling, abortion is still a top issue of concern, but has slipped down in the rankings because of urgent concerns people have regarding the economy and crime. As for what hasn’t been a surprise, O’Keefe pointed to how this could end up being one of the most consequential election cycles in Latino American politics, which he is “intrigued” and “heartened” to see.
“This is not just in the number of Latinos that may get elected to Congress, but that in so many different races across the country, it's the views of Latino voters that will tip the scales in really pronounced ways,” O’Keefe said.
Many different eyes will be on different races across the country on Election Day, but O’Keefe narrowed it down to Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona — all which have Senate races that could tip the balance of power in Congress for either party.
In PA specifically, O’Keefe pointed to the recent debate between Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman to see if it would have any kind of effect on the race’s outcome. According to a Monmouth University poll following the debate, it showed 48% of voters will definitely, or probably, vote for Fetterman while 44% said they would do the same for Oz. Those numbers are nearly identical to a poll done a month prior to the debate.
But beyond the polls, O’Keefe is focused on Fetterman’s health, and how the impact it will have on the race’s outcome.
“The PA debate, more than any other this cycle, is the one we will be studying to see whether it did or not because of how Fetterman is doing health wise. We've had senators, governors and presidents who were disabled but who were disabled before they began running, or were injured or had a stroke while they were in office and were able to rebound from that or adapt to it while being the incumbent,” said O’Keefe. “We've never had a good example of a candidate starting a campaign and getting sick in such a way that it changes their ability to campaign the way they were before and then having all that play out in the midst of a campaign for public office.”
In a question posed to O’Keefe about what party has the upperhand, he said gave kudos to both parties — Republicans for their marketing approach and Democrats for their turnout efforts for things like early voting.
“Republicans have been really skilled this cycle at tugging on the heartstrings and the purse strings of voters,” said O’Keefe. “Actual economic data helps them in many respects, but psychologically, they've gotten many voters to agree with them that things aren't in great shape.”
As for Democrats, O’Keefe said they are seeing signs of strong early voting, which will help them in the long run and the big money they continue to spend on advertisements will likely keep them ahead of Republican candidates, especially in the senate races where they might be able to get the win, even if only by a few points.
“If they can turn out young people and the Latino base that supports them and Black voters especially in some of these states, they could remind Republicans that the demography and the changing face of this country is such that it may ultimately end up helping them continue to win races,” he said.
In the end, O’Keefe said is always rooting for high participation, and a smooth vote count. It is something that he has done since before 2016 and 2020, when the latter became a bigger issue of concern in the country.
“As long as Americans can show up and peacefully and fairly cast a ballot and make sure that it is peacefully and fairly counted, great, and whoever wins, wins,” he said. “Elections have consequences and if people are concerned about that, then they can spend the time, and money to support somebody or run themselves, and to convince others to vote the same way. Those are the rules of the game and if they're being violated, or abused, they need to recall that, and we've seen some of that in the last few years. We in the media have done a good job, probably can do a better job of tracking and calling that out.”
Election Day is Nov. 8.