Would a Less-Nativist Republican Have Won in 2020?
Much has been made of Donald Trump’s better-than-expected performance with Hispanic voters. But a close look at his showing in key battleground states suggests a missed opportunity: A less-nativist candidate might well have ridden that wave to a second term in the White House.
Exit polls suggest that Trump won a third of the Latino vote overall, a little better than last time around. But what put him close to the edge was his impressive performance with Hispanics in Florida and Texas, both states he won.
To the extent that exit polls can be believed, Trump got a thumping 45 percent of Florida’s Latino vote, an 11-point improvement over his 2016 performance. This is squarely because 58 percent of the Sunshine State’s sizeable Cuban American community in the populous Miami-Dade County voted for him, an improvement of four points from last time. This cut Joe Biden’s overall county-wide lead to merely seven points, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s 30-point one.
Why did Biden lose ground with these groups? One reason is that Trump successfully associated Biden with socialism, and raised the specter that the Democrat would turn America into the countries they’d escaped. In one masterstroke of microtargeting, Trump invited Fabiana Rosales, the wife of an imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader, to the White House and then used the video with her to woo the community. Meanwhile, Biden took the Latino vote for granted and did little to refute this branding, even as political commentators like Linda Chavez, a conservative who opposed Trump, were sounding the alarm telling him to wake up. Biden could have also done more to point out that Trump had rejected half the asylum petitions of Cubans and Senate Republicans five times in 18 months spurned efforts to extend the Temporary Protected Status for undocumented Venezuelans. If these communities had been more aware of Trump’s record, they might have been less inclined to support him in such numbers. It was missed opportunity on Biden’s part.
The Latino vote in Texas was even more surprising in some ways. Despite the heavy Latino turnout, Dems could not realize their perennial dream of turning this red state blue. Biden increased his vote count among Hispanics in large, more liberal cities like Dallas and Houston over Hillary Clinton’s totals. But he lost the state by six points after an eye-popping 41 percent to 47 percent of Hispanic voters in several heavily Latino border counties in the Rio Grande Valley region, a Democratic stronghold, backed Trump. In Starr County, which is nearly 97 percent Hispanic, Biden had only a five-point margin with the group compared to Clinton’s whopping 60-point 2016 lead. Nueces County in South Texas went for Trump by a wider margin n
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