WASHINGTON, D.C. — Donald Trump over-performed with Latino and Latina voters during the 2020 election. Nearly one in three voted for his reelection last year, alarming Democrats and vindicating Republicans.
Latino Rebels asked both Latinos in the Senate GOP caucus, Marco Rubio (FL) and Ted Cruz (TX), to explain the rightward shift in Latino voters during last year’s presidential election.
Trump won both Florida and Texas last year with huge gains among Latino voters in Miami-Dade County and the Rio Grande Valley, respectively. “These are working-class people who believe in normal things,” said Rubio, the Sunshine State’s Cuban-American senator, in an interview with Latino Rebels last month. He was riding on an underground train through the Capitol tunnels to the Russell Senate Office Building, where Rubio has an office on the second floor.
“Suddenly, every time they wake up in the morning they’re hearing some outrage, some news, some crazy thing,” he added. “And on top of that you have people talking about how terrible this country is, and small business owners being told they’re going to be considered as rich and things of this nature. … And so what’s happened is the left has gone so far left, it’s left millions of Americans, not just Hispanic voters, but millions without a political home. … So that’s why I think you’ve seen so many of them vote, not even right versus left, but normal versus crazy.”
Latino Rebels asked Rubio if Democrats over-promising and under-delivering on immigration reform creates an opportunity with Latino voters for Republicans. “Immigration reform matters to Hispanics because you may know people that are in that situation,” said Rubio. “You yourself are compassionate toward it but that doesn’t mean you’re pro-open-borders and pro-chaos. They’re Americans. They care about what happens in this country and their communities that feel the impact of chaotic illegal immigration before anybody else.”
Rubio employs at least 20 Latinos on his staff, according to Latino Rebels’ analysis of his 64 employees listed in Politico PRO. Ted Cruz, the other Republican Latino senator, employs at least six Latinos on his staff.
In July, Latino Rebels caught up with Sen. Cruz in the Senate tunnels to ask for his take on the rightward shift of Latino voters in the 2020 election.
“I think it is closely connected to the socioeconomic shift in our politics over the last decades,” said the senator from Texas. “Conventional wisdom used to be that Republicans are the party of the rich and Democrats the party of the working class. In the last decade, that has flipped upside down. Today Republicans are, and I believe should be, the party of working men and women … the party of truck drivers and construction workers, and steelworkers … the cops and firefighters and waiters and waitresses … And today Democrats are the party of rich coastal elites … and many of them look down on working men and women … And I think the Hispanic vote reflects that broader trend in Texas.”
Most Latinos in Texas voted for Joe Biden in 2020, with exit polls showing younger Latinos voting overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate. But Donald Trump still saw gains among Latino voters in the state, even in border counties that are almost entirely Latino.
“If you’re a Hispanic guy living in South Texas and you drive a pickup truck and you work in the oil fields and you go bird hunting on the weekends, you voted for Donald Trump,” said Cruz. “If you look at the Hispanic community nationally, it’s not monolithic. That’s one of the reasons why national Hispanic polls are not terribly useful because the Hispanic population in California, for example, is substantially to the left of Hispanics in the rest of the country. The Hispanic population in Florida tends to be to the right of Hispanics across the country. Texas Hispanics have historically voted somewhere in between.”
Rubio and Cruz tend to agree that Latinos —or “Hispanics,” as they say— are fundamentally a conservative community.
“The values that resonate in our community are faith, family, patriotism, hard work, the American dream,” said Cruz. “Those are conservative values, and as the Democratic Party goes further and further left, embracing fringe theories, like critical race theory and abolishing the police, and advocating for socialism, Democrats are losing Hispanics and they’re losing African Americans, as well.”
Cruz added that “for many Hispanics, our families have come from countries who have seen the misery and suffering and poverty under socialism, whether in Cuba or Venezuela or elsewhere, and we’re not interested in seeing those failures replicated here.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports