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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Failure of the GOP’s Hispanic Strategy

The March 10 Wall Street Journal had a story headlined “Bush’s Gambit for Votes of Hispanics Fizzles“. Of course, that’s not exactly a scoop, since I’ve been making the same point for a very long time, backed up by copious amounts of data. But I guess it’s nice to see the mainstream press catching on. The fact of the matter is that the strongest part of the GOP’s argument about Hispanics is that they need to make progress among this voter group. Evidence of actual progress among Hispanics has been conspicuously lacking.
The failure of the GOP’s Hispanic strategy is underscored by a just-released Democracy Corps poll of Hispanic likely voters that includes oversamples in three southwestern states (NM, AZ and NV) and among non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida. (You can read the poll here and the analysis memo here.)
In the poll, just 33 percent of Hispanics think the country is going in the right direction and 52 percent say it is off on the wrong track. And they give Bush an approval rating of only 46 percent.
The Democrats retain a huge lead of almost 40 points (65-26) on party ID. This includes a larger lead in the southwest (45 points) and a substantially smaller, but still significant one among non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida (12 points).
In terms of the presidential contest, Kerry beats Bush among Hispanics by 23 points (57-34), which includes a whopping margin of 33 points in the southwest and 7 points among non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida.
As the analysis memo points out, it is unlikely that Bush will get many more votes than he pulls in pre-election polls. Almost all Hispanic undecided voters are likely to break toward the Democrats based on past Hispanic voting patterns, undecided voters’ heavily Democratic party ID and the general tendency of undecided voters to break toward the challenger.
In short, the GOP Hispanic strategy is in a shambles. Their clever strategy of targeting Hispanic voters has run into a fairly major problem. The current Republican party (aka the white people’s party) just doesn’t have a lot to offer an overwhelmingly working class, immigrant-based, minority population like Hispanics. “We’re socially conservative, too” or “Some of us speak Spanish” just doesn’t cut it with a group whose real-life needs call for more government action, not less.

30 comments on “The Failure of the GOP’s Hispanic Strategy

  1. Hispanic Blue Blood on

    >>Huh? Where did you get the idea that Teresa Heinz-Kerry is Hispanic? She was raised the daughter of expats in Mozambique and South Africa. As far as I know, she’s as blue blooded as (both) her husbands.
    Posted by ColoDem at March 16, 2004 12:04 PM <<
    Are you implying that Hispanics can’t be blue-blooded, wealthy, and white? For your information, there are many Hispanics of European heritage who are as white, if not whiter, than Mr. Kerry. The Portuguese are Hispanics, but then again, Ms. Heinz Kerry isn’t even Portuguese, she’s African!

  2. Sara on

    I suspect Bush is really helping himself and the Republicans by suggesting that the Spanish People in Spain are really very very bad people because they voted for “SOCIALISTS’. Of course they nicely leave out the fact that it twas the Spanish Socialists who put it all together in 1976 when Franco died — and built a modern democracy, negotiated the entry to the EU, (EEOC at the time) signed every Human Rights tresty in sight, and accomodated many of the interests that simmered behind the scenes left over from the Civil War. While I realize most Americans of Hispanic background are not from Spain, it does remain something of the cultural center of the Spanish Speaking World — a position somewhat enhanced by recent Spanish History. Do you think they will move into “Freedom Fries” mode? Will we have little Bourgeois Riots at the local Taco Bell’s? Tonight Denny Hastert has lined the House Republicans up with the grand analysis that the Spanish are just a pitiful bunch of appeasers. That is really a great position to take if you want to seem acceptable to Hispanic Voters.
    I noticed the Madrid papers took on Bush the other day for showing disrespect for the dead in the train bombing. Apparently one is expected to wear a black tie when extending condolances, and Bush wor a red, white and blue striped one. I thought the White House had a Protocal Officer who sorted things like this out. I must say laying flowers at the Spanish Embassy is more than our dead troops get from this guy.

  3. milli on

    I’m a Hispanic woman and you have it all wrong. A an independant I am looking for a leader with conviction and a voice for my “people”, I’m an American first and what I need and what this country needs is a leader that stands for all of us and not someone trying to “hispanicize” his ticket. Kerry lost me last week, he LIED about voting for Helms Burton and was just trying to convince Cubans to vote for him – what a joke. He stands for NOTHING – we’d been better off with Edwards – at least he doesn’t have 20 years of WAFFLING on everything. November is a loss – get used to it – 4 more years of Bush – maybe that’s a good thing considering the options!!!

  4. Dan on

    In the case of Bill Richardson, I think the GOP slime squad was doing some preventive maintenance during his time at DOE. Richardson has been a comer in the Democratic Party for some time and the GOP wanted to eliminate or forestall his elevation to VP candidacy because of his obvious demographic advantages. Remember, they did the same thing with Henry Cisneros.
    But I doubt they’ll be able to use the same kind of tactics if he actually becomes a candidate. Not without risking pissing off the Hispanic vote.
    Finally, I don’t think there is a worse Cabinet-level job than DOE. No one is going to be able to turn around that bureaucratic culture in two years without a lot of help and DOE hasn’t been a top-level priority since the oil shocks of the 70s.

  5. Ron Thompson on

    Dear Sara,
    Thanks for your very thoughtful response. I should not have said you raised charges–you expressed concerns.
    I know nothing about energy policy–maybe others can comment on Richardson’s tenure. But certainly the “GOP slime squad”, as you call it, will go after whomever Kerry chooses. If the worst they can say about Gov. Richardson’s integrity and character is that he arranged a job interview for Ms. Lewinsky at the President’s request, I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that should cause us to turn away from a candidate who may be uniquely positioned to help Democrats win Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and perhaps Florida.

  6. Peter on

    Curtis, some people say Kerry should pick Evan Bayh (former Indiana governor, now a senator) as VP because of Indiana. I think it’s an awful idea. He’s too DLC, too boring.

  7. Sara on

    In raising questions about someone on the VP list, as I have suggested above regarding Richardson, I have not, as Ron Thompson suggested — made charges. I have simply pointed to areas that need to be examined as you mull your choice.
    Yea — I understand Richardson was very much of a blindsided bit player in the Monica story. My concern is less with the truth of the matter — more with the potential target quality offered to the GOP slime squad by the choice. I am not in favor of a selection for VP that makes the slime squad’s job easy.
    Now as to the Dept of Energy. Look, there is something called the IF Stone rules of investigative Journalism — and one of these is pretty obvious if you think about it. If you want to understand how a principle political actor administers policy — uses the bureaucry to solve problems, and more programs ahead — you drop down about three levels from the subject person, find the people who are really experts in the actual content of programs, and see what kind of tale they tell. You don’t ask them to “judge” someone — you ask for the story, and look for key things that help you assess whether a leader made a program more ahead in a reasonable way, or whether he failed.
    So — I’ve looked at various Department of Energy programs over the years that interest me. I am interested in clean-up of the Nuclear waste issues at places such as Hanford, Savannah, Oak Ridge and a number of other sites. (See W.Post series on the N. Kentucky mess for instance) — And I know people who are legislators, members of congress, who have served on regulatory commissions, and I know some scientificly credentialed folk who are sometimes consultants on these matters. And yea, I have asked about departmental leadership, and how that impacts program progress. What I find is that during Richard’s 2 and a half years, the problems with moving programs forward were not solfed.
    Was this Richardson’s fault? — well he had the top job, and I expect someone in that position to show some leadership. If people or policy are in the way — the idea of leadership is to move over and/or around them. Gain greater understanding of the problems so as to create a base of support for problem solving and all.
    Cleaning up the waste from the Nuclear Industry in the Cold War era is a HUGE issue. From the beginning and up to the mid 70’s, the problem was hidden and ignored and wrapped in official secrecy. Then, mid 70’s onward — we’ve begun to comprehend and calculate the cost of clean up. Done right — it will cost Trillions, and there is absolutely no political advantage in talking about spending zillions for the necessary projects. Anyone who has followed this since the 70’s knows this — and looks at leadership of DOE in these terms. Hazel O’Leary tried to go at the problem sideways — by dealing with the victims of human experimentation and industrial exposure. The idea was — in focusing on the human interest and compensation aspects of it all — to move from those specifics to the much broader matters. (Broader matter being what happens when the Hanford storage dumps break, and the Columbia River is polluted, and we have to say bye bye to Portland Oregon, and all?) So — look at DOE during Richardson’s years in leadership — and find your own people who are mostly technical experts and who know the problems — and ask them if much progress was made in the last couple of years of Clinton’s term. Or — take any other DOE subject area that interests you, and where you’ve done a bit of educating yourself, and apply the IFStone rule of Investigative Journalism — the technical guy a couple levels down can tell you if the programs are moving along at a reasonable pace — or whether monkey wrenches are getting thrown into the gears.
    What I believe happened to Richardson at DOE is that the Republican Congress did everything possible to distract attention from real problems. The Win Ho Lee case — bad security at DOE labs and all, and the notion that the Chinese had stolen the latest in bomb designs — that whole long saga was really about distracting from all the enviornmental clean-up missions of DOE. I simply am making the case that Leadership would have been about finding a way to make the Republican strategy and tactics clear — and that didn’t happen.
    I hope I have suggested enough history to review.

  8. Molly, NYC on

    Remember, these are the same bozos who think American Jews have no political opinions beyond Israel policy and that the women’s vote depends on which candidate is hotter-looking.

  9. Christopher on

    I’m not entirely sold on Edwards – if only becuase of the rarity of primary “losers” being selected (Bush I is, I believe the only example – there are a couple farther back)
    However – I agree with Dan – or maybe even got a step further – in this Election cycle – an “attack dog” may not be the best thing – one of the things that shot Edwards to the front of the pack in the early primaries was the idea of his positive approach – given how negative this race is going to be – that might be such a change that it would be better than an attack – plenty of other ways to raise issues with this administration than an “attack dog”. Besides – mostanything that breaks up the normal political mode and confuses the rightwing dominated press for a minute is good by me.

  10. Curtis Erhart on

    What about someone who could deliver a midwestern state or two? Ohio, Indiana?
    I would say pick anyone who could deliver Florida, but it appears that such a person doesn’t exist.

  11. Peter on

    Rove wants to get 40% of the Hispanic vote this year. He knows that is all they need to win. And it looks like they are on their way to getting that.

  12. Caty on

    I agree with you all that John Edwards is the best choice. He will really appeal to Latinos because he is from a working family and has worked hard for all he has achieved. In addition, he will appeal to voters across the country, not just in a particular state. He will make it impossible for the Republicans to label Democrats as liberal elitists. Most important, Edwards will appeal to swing voters because he is not perceived as having an ideological agenda or being beholden to special interests. He is inspiring, charming, and likeable-all of which we badly need on the ticket!!!

  13. Dan on

    The conventional wisdom for picking a VP is to find someone who can carry a large swing state or energize an important group. In this vein, Joe Lieberman was critical in pulling CT into the Dem column and swaying Democrats who were tired of 8 years of Clinton.
    So I guess that rules out Lieberman, who was the worst attack dog in history.
    But I question the idea that Edwards can’t play the “attack dog” role. He brings a recognizable passion to his speeches that would team up with Kerry’s experience. Who cares if he doesn’t go negative if he can reliably draw distinctions with the Republicans. His trial experience provides an ability to seize on opponents weaknesses.
    Frankly, the VP candidate is going to give a lot of speeches and interviews and then he’ll have one shot at Cheney. Of all the VP possibilities, and I count myself as a Richardson advocate from way back, I would want Edwards going up against Cheney.

  14. Ron Thompson on

    If you have charges to make about Richardson, could you please be a little more specific than saying that “a couple” of people told you that his brief tenure as Secretary of Energy “was much of a mess”? He didn’t get the job until 1998.
    And, yes, he arranged a job interview for Monica Lewinsky at the President’s request. Is the implication that he knew about her relationship to the President? If not, and his boss asked him for a favor, why shouldn’t he do it?

  15. Sara on

    Richardson brings with him several problems. There were lots of issues with regard to how he handled the Dept of Energy — a couple of a-political science types tell me it was much of a mess — and then there is the Monica Connection which could be brought up and discussed 24/7. (He interviewed her for a UN job,) Baggage we don’t need right now.
    If Bush disses the Spanish Election — the one that looked pretty “fair” and “well attended” and where they voted on paper, and counted all the ballots — and his best buddy got defeated, I suspect that could boomerang on him in the US with Hispanic voters. And if he will take it, recent events offer Kerry a chance to show respect. I tend to think various modes of showing respect and listening is somewhat more valuable in getting these votes than a VP slot.
    It looks like the Dem’s in Colorado will have a Hispanic Senate Candidate. Campaigning with him in that marginal state might show more respect than a spot on the ballot for VP.

  16. Ron Thompson on

    I think it’s a vast overstatement to say as Ruy does, that “the GOP Hispanic strategy is in shambles.” Bush got 34% of Hispanic voters in 2000; he’s getting 34% in this poll, with 9% undecided. His strategy has neutralized his losses among a group which might otherwise have been expected to turn more solidly against him, for economic reasons.
    It is still very necessary to increase Hispanic support for Democrats: for Kerry in 2004, and for the party in the future. And the best way to do that is to put Bill Richardson on the ticket.

  17. JC on

    This is very good to know. I was commenting on this a couple of days ago at this site. I hadn’t read the January analysis in the archives.
    I hope that these side issues that Bush is using to peel off Hispanic voters continue to fail.
    It would be great if the Hispanic vote in Florida can be even more turned towards Kerry. More divergence there would give Kerry an even greater chance to win Florida.

  18. ColoDem on

    Huh? Where did you get the idea that Teresa Heinz-Kerry is Hispanic? She was raised the daughter of expats in Mozambique and South Africa. As far as I know, she’s as blue blooded as (both) her husbands.

  19. BobNJ on

    I wonder if Latina Teresa can help Kerry more with hispanics. I hope the campaign is exploiting have a real hispanic very nearly on the ticket.

  20. Brian on

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  21. steve kyle on

    Bill R. would be a good veep because he is a good person, not just because he is hispanic. He has impeccable foreign policy credentials and now has executive experience as a governor as well. It is a bonus that he is hispanic, but i would like him even if he spoke spanish like W.

  22. Brian Y on

    For the record, I think Bill Richardson would make a great choice as VP. I agree with ABB; it could energize turnout among Hispanics. As Democrats, we cannot simply take minority groups for granted. Sure, Hispanics trend strongly towards Democrats, but we can solidify that support in November by aggressively targeting their needs. So far, the Republicans have been far more aggressive about targeting Hispanics. I agree with DR that this strategy hasn’t worked, but don’t forget that Bush only got 35% of the Hispanic vote last time. If he can increase this to around 40%, Rove would be ecstatic.
    Btw, as for Richardson not wanting the post, I’d imagine that the whole Democratic Party imploring him to run with Kerry could change his mind.

  23. Marc on

    something’s missing from the analysis, though. the Hispanic strategy, while clearly about Hispanics, is also about the White People Party’s ability to convince its adherents that it’s not, in fact, the white people’s party. whenever a challenge is levied against the GOP’s commitment to Hispanic causes, White People can assuage their guilt and believe, contrary to reason and experience, that something is being done about an issue they pay lip service to.
    IOW, I’d be curious to see how the Hispanic strategy played out among white people too.

  24. ABB on

    Not Graham. He’s a bad campaigner, and polls in Florida with him as Kerry’s veep are no different than Kerry alone—ie he gives Kerry nothing. Plus, I think the whole “well, then you win state X because so-and-so is from state X” is out the window after Gore lost Tennesee in 2000.
    I’d actually like Richardson, not because he gives you any specific state, but having a Latino on the ticket might energize Latino turnout in general, which has always been the larger Democratic problem with minority groups—they support the Dems, they just don’t go to the polls at the same rates that other groups do.
    The problem with this is that Richardson has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t want the veep slot, he’s only been governor 1 year, etc. So he’s out.
    I think Edwards would be a good pick. My only concern with him is if he’d be sufficiently attack-dog. As VP, you can’t be Mr. Sunshine all the time.

  25. reignman on

    Kerry probably will not need him, and might do better w/ Graham or Edwards. Arizona is the most radical change from 2000 to 2004. Arizona (based on recent polls) looks to be pretty safe territory for the dems in ’04.

  26. Paul on

    Would it help Kerry to have Bill Richardson as his VP–to build on and solidify the Hispanic vote in AZ, NM, CO, etc.–or is that issue not very important given how solidly Dem the Hispanic appears to be?


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