July 24, 2010


Adios, Democrats: More Hispanic voters are Democrats, but the better Hispanic candidates are Republicans. (Molly Ball, July 23, 2010, Slate)

For Democrats, the most frightening candidate of 2010 may well be Susana Martinez, the Republican nominee for governor in New Mexico. If she wins in November, she will be the first female Hispanic governor in U.S. history—and an instant national GOP spokeswoman. [...]

In addition to Martinez, who currently leads in the polls and has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, there's Marco Rubio, the Tea Party favorite who drove Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Florida, and Brian Sandoval, a former judge who holds a big lead in the Nevada gubernatorial race. Sure, that's only three candidates. But in the 74 elections this year for governor or U.S. Senate—not all of them competitive—there are no Democratic Hispanic nominees. "Republicans have done a great job of recruiting Hispanic candidates," one Democratic strategist told me. "They are giving us a big wakeup call this year." [....]

One Democratic political consultant in Nevada told me canvassers in Las Vegas' heavily Hispanic neighborhoods hear over and over, "Si, si, Sandoval!" Never mind that Sandoval doesn't speak Spanish. That didn't stop him from making his first television ad of the general-election campaign a Spanish-language spot titled "Ya Es Hora" ("It Is Time") that ran during the World Cup. "When Sandoval says things like that he supports the Arizona law, Hispanic voters just assume he's lying to get elected," the consultant says.

Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington who is also a partner in a polling firm called Latino Decisions, has focused much of his research on Hispanic candidates. "Everything overwhelmingly points to a mobilizing effect for Latino voters," he says. "It is a huge, documented effect, with evidence across states, across types of offices. Latino voters respond, have higher rates of political engagement, are more trusting of government—all those things—when they see themselves represented in elected office."

Barreto's research on this effect builds on work dating to the 1950s, when Irish and Italian last names suddenly started showing up on ballots across the Northeast. "It was a ploy by both parties to engage white ethnic voters," he says. And it worked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 24, 2010 7:08 AM
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