The president traveled to the Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County this week to persuade the Latin community to grant him four more years in office. Politically speaking, this in-your-face move demonstrates that the Trump Campaign feels it has a legitimate shot at this crucial voting bloc. It is antithetical to voting trends, so why would Trump’s political strategists suggest he make a push for the Hispanic vote?
Let Us Count the Ways
Undaunted by Miami-Dade’s electoral past, Mr. Trump went into the belly of the beast – a brash move that garnered a lot of free airtime. This key county has voted Democrat in almost every presidential election for the past forty years. Why waste precious time in the countdown to the election going where you are not likely to win? Perhaps it is because there is more to the Hispanic vote than meets the eye.
One significant difference between Democrats and Republicans is that they have a fundamentally different outlook regarding demographics. The left has a propensity to see people in collective groupings. Nothing demonstrates this better than former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comment that “you ain’t black” if you are on the fence about who to support.
Republicans do not use as broad a brush regarding demographic populations. Instead, they tend to view individuals rather than groups of persons. So, while Democrats might see a Latin voting bloc, the Republican is more likely to see the Cuban, the Columbian, or the Venezuelan as separate and distinct.
The media wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t help its side, either: a superficial understanding of the Hispanic community causes it to lump all Spanish-speakers into the same troupe. For example, every cable TV news outlet – Fox News included – has repeated the same talking point all week that choosing Barbara Lagoa for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court will make hay with the Latin voter.
Well, not so fast. Ms. Lagoa is Cuban, and so her heritage carries no water with the average Hispanic voter in Arizona. The Mexican may not be so keen on the folks from El Salvador. The Venezuelans and the Columbians might counter that they don’t have that much in common with the Puerto Rican. Putting all Hispanics in a box is like saying that all Native American tribes like to sit together and sing kumbaya. If that were true, they would not have waged war on one another long before the white man came along.
Trump intuitively understands this. Suppose he can pick off a few Latin sub-groups that lean conservative – the Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Columbians – well then, now you are gaining a foothold. Put a couple of these small clusters together, and the Trump camp could be looking at some numbers that matter.
One thing that the American electorate likes is a candidate who works to earn their vote, and, on this score, President Trump excels. He appears to genuinely enjoy sitting down with the rabble to talk and listen. If you are a Latin voter on the fence and the president of the United States comes to visit your people – that makes an impact. He is not afraid to go out there and figuratively press the flesh and do the big ask. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has taken a low-key approach with limited travel, appearances, and availability to the press. Being with the people also allows Trump to trash his opponent, which he did in classic Trumpian style: “Joe Biden will lay waste to Florida’s economy,” he told a Latin roundtable. It also gives him a chance to sell his policies to the crowd. “The people that understand the border better than anybody are the Hispanics. They don’t want bad people coming into the country,” Trump said to thundering applause.
Just a few hours after the president left Florida, an article in The Miami Herald admitted: “There are signs that Trump’s Latinos for Trump campaign is working.” Then they pointed out:
“Four years after then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Miami-Dade County by nearly 300,000 votes, a recent Bendixen & Amandi International poll showed the president perfo[r]ming far better among the county’s 1.5 million voters and splitting the Hispanic vote. Republican sources say other polls show Trump beating Biden with Miami’s Latinos following years of efforts to brand Democrats as socialists who sanction Latin America’s leftist, authoritarian regimes in places like Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
Old school politics includes getting out among the people, asking for their votes, and making citizens feel as though their concerns matter. Rarely does it involve going after your opponent’s base, which may be a sign of trouble for Mr. Biden. Such as it is, the president does not appear to be taking anyone or anything for granted, and the results on election day will reveal whether this traditional approach still matters to the voting public.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.