Mar 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Hispanic peril

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top Democratic operatives see expanding defections by Hispanic voters to the GOP, worsening Democrats' outlook for November's midterms.

Why it matters: Democrats had hoped this might be a phenomenon specific to the Trump era. But new polling shows it accelerating, worrying party strategists about the top of the ticket in 2024.

A Wall Street Journal poll last week found that by 9 points, Hispanic voters said they'd back a Republican candidate for Congress over a Democrat.

  • In November, the parties were tied.

What's happening: Democrats saw evidence of this shift in 2020 in House races in south Florida, Texas and southern New Mexico.

  • Key factors, operatives say, include skepticism among Hispanic voters about programs they view as handouts. And many Hispanics are social conservatives, with what L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano has called a "rancho libertarianism streak."
  • The national party also needs to do better with messages that distinguish among Americans whose families hailed from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Central America, several Democrats tell me.

Our thought bubble: Latinos, especially Mexican Americans, still lean Democratic. But Democrats have been losing ground among these voters in recent elections because the party hasn't been paying enough attention to them.

  • Democrats talk about climate change, but dismiss the fact that many Latinos work in lucrative oilfield jobs in New Mexico and West Texas.
  • Democrats talk about diversity. But by pleasing white progressives, they push out moderate Hispanic candidates.
  • Democrats target Latinos by talking about immigration. But polls show immigration ranks 5th or 6th among the issues most important to these voters. The economy is usually the top concern.

New Mexico Democratic political consultant Sisto Abeyta said he's been ringing the alarm bells for months that Democrats in his state were losing Hispanic men: "And everyone has been ignoring me."

  • Republican consultant Mike Madrid, based in Sacramento, told Axios: "As Democrats start to focus more on white, cultural, progressive cultural issues, they're losing the fastest segment of the non-college-educated population, and that's Latinos."

Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, based in D.C., told Axios his party keeps hiring political consultants for U.S. House races who know little to nothing about Latino voters:

  • "They run the same [expletive] game plan every two years."
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