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How Democrats Missed Trump’s Appeal to Latino Voters


The Biden campaign did recognize its potential weakness with Cubans and Venezuelans, but hoped that support from younger Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans, might make up the difference. To make its case in Florida and elsewhere, the campaign emphasized the reality that Latinos were contracting and dying from the coronavirus and suffering economically at disproportionately high rates, and that the president had mishandled the pandemic. One of the final ads the campaign ran in battleground states, including Florida, Arizona and Nevada, focused on the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

But the fact that Mr. Biden is heading to the White House is not cause for a victory lap when it comes to engaging Latino voters, according to those who work on that issue.

“We were not choosing our savior, we were choosing our opponent,” said Marisa Franco, the executive director of Mijente, a Latino civil rights organization that originally backed Mr. Sanders, explaining her group’s work in 2020. “The Biden campaign may have chosen not to spend time in working-class, immigrant and people-of-color neighborhoods, but that is exactly where his victory is coming from and where the solutions he’ll need to champion will have to start.”

Most Latino groups have not expressed surprise at the election’s results. They have long noted, for example, how little conservative religious South American voters in Florida backing Mr. Trump have in common with progressive young Mexican-Americans in Arizona turning out for Democrats. But the groups’ leaders also argue that without pushing the idea of a pan-Latino political identity, Latinos in any one region might never get sustained attention from national candidates.

In September, a nonpartisan group called the Texas Organizing Project released a report based on interviews with more than 100 Latinos in Texas that offered a preview of how 2020 might go.

“The majority do not feel there is a singular ‘Latino Vote,’ the report concluded. “Though they see its potential.”

Reporting was contributed by Caitlin Dickerson from Harlingen, Texas, Patricia Mazzei from Hialeah, Fla., Astead W. Herndon from Dallas, and Giovanni Russonello from New York.

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