The GOP have the Latino vote in Florida, but not the Southwest where growth is skyrocketing
Latinos in Southwestern states voted Democrat, showing that the GOP doesn’t have the support it says it does, bringing implications for 2024 and beyond.
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The 2022 midterm elections were a disappointment for Republicans, at least in certain places being revealed in exit polls. According to election results, they won significant Latino votes or at least made gains with the demographic in different states across the U.S.
This was especially the case in Florida where with the exception of Maxwell Frost, the state is as red as it has ever been, even in Miami-Dade County, a historically blue area that Gov. Ron DeSantis won with ease.
But throughout this recent election cycle, it was touted by several GOP officials and news outlets that Republicans had taken the Latino demographic from Democrats, a narrative that was pushed and believed by many.
However, election results also showed — much to the dismay of the GOP — that in several Southwestern states like Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, Latinos voted Democrat. It’s a trend that has helped and will continue to help Democrats in the long run as the Latino population has significantly grown, and will continue to do so.
‘The Red Wave’ GOP officials hoped for did not occur. As a result, indicators are pointing to Republicans in jeopardy of losing the much-needed Latino votes in the Southwest, causing huge implications for Republicans in future elections, not just 2024.
The Southwest used to be big conservative territory that the GOP could bank on giving them their votes. But in recent times, Republican officials have lost their grip on the region and are now fighting to survive and regain that dominance.
As for why, many will and have pointed to their rather hard stances on sensitive issues like immigration, that have pushed Latinos away. That’s at least according to Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who helped develop early strategies for Latino voter engagement.
Rosenberg told NBC News that the modern-day Southwest region is no longer where it was under former President George W. Bush.
“This was once hostile terrain for us,” Rosenberg said. “Over the last 20 years, the Republican position has significantly deteriorated in the Southwest. And that’s indisputable.”
Before 2018, in Arizona for instance, every U.S. Senator and statewide office holder was Republican. In stark contrast to today, Democrats have won the Senate seats and the Governor’s race. According to Mike Noble, an independent pollster who has researched the Southwest region, this has not happened in Arizona in more than 70 years,
“The GOP could potentially lose the Southwest for decades to come if they don’t position themselves better among Hispanics and Latinos,” Noble said. “Republicans are in a critical time right now where they need to decide which route they’re going. Are they going the route of MAGA? Or are they going the route of that old Goldwater, traditional conservative, business-minded approach that really left them winning?”
However, for the GOP, it is not too late to potentially win back some Latino voters if they would only take a moderate and less hardline stance on issues like immigration reform. Certain Arizona Republicans have taken this approach according to Noble, such as longtime Arizona Republican Senators Barry Goldwater and John McCain.
According to NBC News’ review of election results, exit polls, and interviews with campaign officials, data analysts and strategists are saying that Latino voters are displaying complexities that acutely differ from region to region and even from state to state.
According to an analysis by Equis Research — that studies Latino voting patterns — it saw support for Democrats in states such as Nevada and Arizona. Additionally, it showed that in Philadelphia, Democratic Senator-elect John Fetterman outshined even President Joe Biden’s 2020 results with Latinos.
As mentioned earlier, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis easily won re-election, and according to the NBC News exit poll, won by taking much of the Latino vote, which included 68% of Cuban-Americans.
“An overarching story that emerged from this election is that the voters had different stories depending on where you are in the country,” Mark Hugo Lopez, director of race and ethnicity at Pew Research Center said of Latinos. “There’s many local stories here to tell about Latino voters that the national numbers mask.”
According to Hugo Lopez, Latinos across the many different states of the country exhibit differing characteristics. In the Sunshine State for example, there exist much bigger populations of Cubans, who vote more conservatively. Hugo Lopez added that as a result, GOP officials have engaged with the community for the last few decades. In states like Arizona and Nevada, there exist large populations of second-, and third-generation Mexican families.
“That may be shaping some of the ways in which Hispanic voters, particularly those who might be the children of immigrants, are engaging with politics, whether because of the issues of policies around undocumented immigrants and also issues like DACA,” Lopez added, referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from President Barack Obama’s administration, which protects young undocumented people brought here by their parents from deportation.
As for the dwindling support of Republicans in Southwestern states, GOP pollster in Arizona Chuck Coughlin pointed the finger at the many MAGA Republicans on the ballot, and said that AZ gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for instance — who lost to Katie Hobbs — campaigned on segregated ideals that saw her ultimately lose out as a result.
“I’ve not seen since ‘16, a MAGA candidate win with that constituency. It just doesn’t happen,” Coughlin said. “It’s about telling you you’re not accepted here. Literally, it’s like Kari Lake throwing McCain Republicans out of the room. Well, she got her wish. Without a change in direction, Republicans are going to continue to lose."
While in Nevada — where a close Senate race took place — despite GOP officials in the state touting throughout the election cycle that they had closed the gap on Latino voters, they were in for a brutal awakening as Latinos were the reason Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was reelected, helping give the U.S. Senate majority to Democrats.
In addition, the newest Democratic Secretary of State, Cisco Aguilar, is the first Latino Secretary of State elected in Nevada’s history. However, this was not the case in the governor’s race, as Republican Joe Lombardo defeated Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak, which at least in part was driven by anger over Sisolak’s complete shutdown of the state during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no doubt they had a major role in my re-election. Latinos in Nevada are a third of the population,” Cortez Masto said. “What I know about our community is that they want to know you’re on their side. They want to engage all the time. You can’t just show up at the last minute. They want to know that you’re there and you understand the issues and that you can fight for them.”
One of the big reasons for Cortez Masto’s successful campaign was because of her early use of Spanish-language media advertising, with the first one debuting in March 2021. Republican challenger Adam Laxalt had a conservative group announce a $2 million investment in Spanish-language ads in support, but it did not occur until it was too late.
Evidence also points out that Republican engagement with Latinos in Nevada is not as vigorous as perhaps in Texas.
“I think the engagement that we’re seeing with Hispanic and Asian voters in Clark County is going to be a difference maker,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told NBC News before the election.
McDaniel was also in for a rude awakening, as Laxalt lost to Cortez Masto by roughly 8,000 votes and winning more than 60% of the Latino vote.
While all signs point to being in favor of Democrats in future elections, they still need to watch their backs in regards to keeping Latino voters, especially Latino men.
“The challenge we have is you can’t treat them like they’re base voters. Hispanic men are no longer base voters,” Dan Sena said, owner of Sena Kozar Strategies. “They are true persuadable voters.”
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