MIAMI — There’s a significant chance that Florida Latinos will back Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) over former President Donald Trump in a possible 2024 presidential primary, multiple Latino Republican operatives tell the Washington Examiner.
The Latino vote was critical to Trump’s victories in Florida in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Meanwhile, Latinos were by far the fastest-growing voter bloc over the last two years.
According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 34.5 million Hispanic Americans were eligible to vote in 2022, up more than 4.7 million compared to the prior election, and accounted for 62% of all new eligible voters heading into the November midterm elections.
Republicans invested heavily in Latino outreach throughout the 2022 cycle, and though the party failed to secure a Latino-fueled national red wave, DeSantis actually won heavily Latino counties, including Miami-Dade.
One Latino GOP operative based in South Florida attributed Miami turning red to the “vibes” DeSantis exuded in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The operative explained to the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that the governor’s stock skyrocketed among Miami’s young Latino professionals after he “took a stand” and refused to shut down businesses due to COVID-19.
“As a Latino and as a Floridian, it’s clear that the amount of support that has come towards the DeSantis has made it where now, if you’re not supporting him, you’re in the minority,” that person stated. “Part of the shift has been that during the pandemic, a lot of the influencers, a lot of folks who were just kind of industry people in Miami, were very happy with the fact that DeSantis did not close the state. They were very happy that gyms opened back up, that restaurants opened back up, clubs opened back up, just everyday life down here in Miami, which is heavy on tourism, which is heavy on entertainment, was open.”
“These individuals felt that that was a representation of what they wanted. It was a representation of what they thought was best for their lives. So I would go as far as saying that when the media was attacking Ron DeSantis for his decision to reopen or to keep Florida open, those individuals felt that that was a moment of pride for them in the sense that they felt that the media was not just against Ron but against them,” the operative concluded flatly. “DeSantis made it cool to be conservative in Miami.”
Three other Latino GOP operatives said DeSantis and Trump have nearly identical platforms and that Latino voters could swing to DeSantis amid Trump’s ongoing legal problems.
“He’s Trump but younger and without the baggage,” one operative suggested.
Polling does show that Florida Latinos do lean significantly more conservative than Latinos in other states. Data published by BPS Research the week before the 2022 elections showed just 44% of Florida Latinos being open to voting Democrat, compared to 67% of respondents in the 10 other states with the largest Latino populations.
“Florida is the outlier,” BPS Vice President Gabe Sanchez said in a statement. “At the end of the day, despite the narrative that we were going to see a huge red wave somewhat fueled by Latino movement towards the Republican Party, that simply did not materialize in this election.”
Trump debuted his 2024 White House bid at his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, on Tuesday night. The former president was the first top-tier Republican to announce his candidacy, but he had already marked DeSantis as his chief rival ahead of the midterm elections.
DeSantis himself has largely avoided criticizing Trump, even as the former president attacks him at political rallies and in interviews. But DeSantis offered a thinly veiled slight at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
DeSantis, asked by reporters about Trump’s attacks, claimed that one of the things he has learned as governor is to expect “incoming fire” alongside success.
“I think what you learn is all of that is just noise, and really what matters is are you leading, are you getting in front of issues, are you delivering results for people, and are you standing up for folks?” he continued. “At the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”