EXCLUSIVE — Though Republicans fell far short of a national red wave in the 2022 elections, the party did see steady improvement among Latino voters, especially working-class men, according to a new midterm autopsy carried out by a conservative Latino advocacy group.
The LIBRE Initiative analyzed results in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, with the former representing states where Republicans underperformed compared to lofty expectations set for Latinos.
In Texas, Republicans bet on a number of Latina Republican candidates, such as the 34th Congressional District’s incumbent Rep. Mayra Flores and Rep.-elect Monica De La Cruz in the 15th Congressional District, to flip historically blue seats in the Rio Grande Valley. Even in races Republicans lost, Flores’s 8-point loss in a district rated a “plus 16 percentage Democratic seat” in particular, the GOP saw significant improvement on their margins.
Arizona also presented underwhelming results for Republicans, but LIBRE said that available exit poll data showed “candidate quality” driving significant vote-splitting among Latinos. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) cruised to reelection with roughly 60% of the vote, yet Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, also a Democrat, just eked out a majority over former President Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidate Kari Lake. Meanwhile, Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani, a former aide to outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey, narrowly upset Democratic candidate Kirsten Engel in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District.
Florida, however, marks the crown jewel of the GOP’s 2022 haul, highlighted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) easily winning reelection and Miami Dade County flipping red, both on the strength of the Latino vote.
“This year’s 2022 elections proved that Latino voters remain the perennial swing voting bloc and are increasingly showing their independence in voting for Republican candidates, even after previously voting for Democratic candidates as evidenced in places like the [Rio Grande Valley] and Miami Dade County,” a memo outlining LIBRE’s findings reads. “Public polling also shows that Latino voters are becoming even more sophisticated in what they are looking for from candidates and elected officials. The quality of the candidate also appears to have been a factor for some Latino voters — a factor both political parties will want to account for in the 2024 presidential election.”
Daniel Garza, LIBRE’s executive director, told the Washington Examiner that “the GOP is in a much better place than they were even six to eight years ago” in terms of reaching Latino voters.
“If you’re a Republican, there were mixed results of wins and losses in the ’22 elections, but I also think it’s important to keep some perspective here,” he said. “It’s clear that Latinos are not going to end up like black voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrat, in the 80-90% range.”
Garza noted that half of the Latino population in the U.S. lives in California and Texas, “so the national polls when it comes to Latinos is actually skewed.”
“There’s a lot of dynamism throughout the Southwest and in Florida and Texas and North Carolina and even Georgia,” he continued. “Those states are very friendly to Republicans compared to 10 years ago. That’s why I’m saying they’re trending right.”
Garza added that Florida, compared to those other states he mentioned, is “fully engaged” with “college educated urban Latinos, and those are the voters that are a really tough nut to crack for the GOP” historically.
On the other hand, Democrats are beginning to struggle energizing “rural” and “working class Latinos, especially males.” Garza claimed that those voters overwhelmingly are focused on the economy and the “high cost of inflation.”
“The people that are making it from paycheck to paycheck are having the toughest time. That’s the working class,” he told the Washington Examiner.
Still, Garza cautioned that GOP gains could be blunted by the massive messaging advantage Democrats historically hold over Latinos.
“The Left dominates unions, Spanish language television, media platforms, Hollywood, influencers, university and Marxist professors, state and federal dollars that pour into partisan 501(c)(3)’s, and go out and do the electioneering come election season,” he said. “These are all massive institutions, and I can’t emphasize how important these sort of media-television platforms are where the left is able to get a message out to millions and drive a narrative more effectively than the right can. Being able to communicate at scale is a major advantage, and the right doesn’t have that.”