May 4, 2023


Biden's plan to win back Latino voters is built off his 2020 mistakes: After years of Democratic missteps with Latino voters, Biden's 2024 campaign has a plan -- and no excuses left. (Christian Paz, May 4, 2023, Vox)

That voter breakdown depends on what states you examine, but the challenge Biden will face this time remains the same: start your outreach early, fine tune an economic message, and remind voters of your accomplishments.

His campaign struggled with these tasks in 2020. During the 2020 primary, for example, Biden's Latino outreach operation was overshadowed by Bernie Sanders's in states like California, Nevada, and Texas, largely due to scarcity of staffing and funding during that ultra-competitive contest. Meanwhile in the general election, staffing struggles, the coronavirus pandemic, and leadership changes meant the campaign couldn't get out in front of voters themselves until later in the race, contributing to losses in Florida and Texas (which, at the time, were considered to be in play).

"The lessons have been out there for way longer than the last two cycles -- candidates matter, positions matter, and critical outreach is essential," Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at the civil rights group Unidos US, told me. "Generally speaking, we continue to see low and late outreach to Hispanic voters, when and if it happens."

Biden and Democrats faced tremendous criticism throughout the 2020 Democratic primary and into the general election for the state of their Latino voter outreach operations. Martinez de Castro was one of those voices, calling it "political malpractice" for candidates to wait until the last minute to engage them during the primary season. She, like other experts I spoke with, told me that politicians of both parties have no excuses now after the 2020 and 2022 wake-up calls to get serious about persuading these new swing voters.

Martinez de Castro said that Democrats had fallen particularly short in messaging to Latinos about kitchen-table issues. "[Democrats] need to actually reach out to and win over these voters and engage more on economic issues, which continue to be the top of mind issues for the Latino community as they have been for at least a couple of decades," she said.

The predominance of economic concerns in the minds of Latino voters isn't new -- inflation and the state of the economy were frequently the top issues for Latinos in polling throughout the 2020 and 2022 elections. But in both cycles, Democrats had fallback issues that gave them an edge over Republicans: the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the future of abortion rights. On both issues, Latino voters preferred Democrats by about 11 points on abortion and 10 points on the pandemic, according to exit polls. But with inflation still high, rising interest rates, and the looming specter of a recession, it's clear that Biden will have to talk about the economy in a more nuanced way, Latino strategists told me.

That nuance means Democrats need to remind Latinos just how bad the situation Biden inherited was, address fears of inflation and a recession directly, and cast Latino voters as "protagonists" who Biden helped, Kristian Ramos, a Latino political consultant for various Democratic groups and former communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told me. The economic message Latino voters are hearing should include that "We know the play," Ramos said, "At this point, are we going to be able to take that head on and be able to say, 'Listen, Democrats, actually, when you were down, we gave you the child tax credit to make sure that your kid was able to thrive, that you could buy groceries, to send your kids to school, and we tried to give you student loan relief but the Republicans tried to get rid of that,'" Ramos said.

Part of that tightrope act will also require Biden to build a better ground operation to understand the diversity of the country's Latino communities and craft messages suited for those places. 

Voters just want their egos massaged.

Posted by at May 4, 2023 7:23 AM