It was gospel among the GOP consultant class for many years: Either conservatives pander to Hispanics by supporting more immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens, or their share of the Hispanic vote would continue to shrink. Then along came Trump, the man who made his political career and presidency from statements and promises that violated every piece of advice in the GOP pandering and sensitivity training handbook. Not only did he win in 2016, but as the 2020 election kicks off in earnest, Hispanics appear to be one of his most auspicious electoral groups.
Following the GOP loss in 2012, the RNC wrote a 100-page “autopsy” report attempting to reconstruct the cause of the party’s loss in that year’s election cycle. Among the many pearls of wisdom was an immortal warning that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” which is swamp-speak for amnesty, otherwise “our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
Dick Armey, the former GOP House majority leader in the 1990s, was quoted in the autopsy as saying, “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you.”
By that standard — that talking tough on the border, interior enforcement, and limiting unskilled immigration are tantamount to calling Hispanics ugly — Trump’s numbers should be well below Romney’s performance with those voters. After all, Trump, despite conservative concerns about some of his administration’s shortcomings on the issue, will forever be known to the public as the man who wants to kick out illegal immigrants. Indeed, based on the conventional wisdom and GOP electoral calculous, Trump should never have been elected president. As one Washington Post columnist warned after Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, “Donald Trump’s ‘Mexican rapists’ rhetoric will keep the Republican Party out of the White House.”
Well, according to new polls, either Hispanics like being called ugly … or perhaps the GOP sages got it wrong all along and Hispanics care about security and prosperity like all Americans and don’t view sovereignty as ugly.
On Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported the results of a Bendixen & Amandi poll showing Joe Biden struggling with Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County. The poll shows Biden leading Trump by just 17 points in the most Democratic area of Florida, 13 points less than Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory over Trump in that county in 2016. What is so important about this result is that Trump still won the state by 1.5% in 2016, so if the county poll is accurate, it may mean Trump will easily win the state this time around.
What is driving Trump’s surprisingly strong showing in this Democrat stronghold? He is polling 47% among Hispanic voters, compared to 46% for Biden. Such a result is simply impossible under the assumptions made by the GOP autopsy and its class of pandering pundits who warned for years that a party with Trump’s message would turn the Hispanic vote numbers into the typical GOP share of the black vote – single digits.
The numbers from Miami-Dade harmonize with the results of a new statewide poll from NBC/Marist, which shows Trump leading Biden statewide by four points among Hispanic voters. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost the Florida Hispanic vote by 60-39.
The trend also appears to be evident nationally as well, among a broader swath of Hispanic voters, not just the predominantly Cuban Hispanics of Florida. An NPR poll from June showed Biden ahead by 20 points among those voters, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 38-point blowout.
We have consistently seen how the party establishment’s electoral prognosis on the immigration issue has been proven wrong. As part of CNN’s exit polling during the 2018 midterms, when the GOP lost badly, it asked voters whether Trump’s position on immigration was “too tough” or “about right/not tough enough.” Here is a rundown of the results for selected states where Republicans lost ground in the suburbs in states with large numbers of Hispanic voters:
Arizona: 35% “too tough;” 58% “about right/not tough enough”
Similarly, a Harvard Harris poll in 2019 showed that 58% of Hispanics would be more likely to support a candidate who supports “strengthening our border to reduce illegal immigration” and that 56% of Hispanics opposed green cards for those likely to be a public charge; 57% oppose granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens; and 65% think illegal aliens should not be able to collect welfare, disability and health care payments from the state and federal governments.
Thus, any honest autopsy of GOP failures would note that not only is the open-borders agenda a disaster for our country, the “Hispandering” of that agenda simply does not win love among Hispanic voters. Pandering never works. Voters of all backgrounds want strong leadership on the fundamental issues that affect their lives, not symbolic checkboxes that white liberals artificially draft for them.