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Democrats and Republicans take different approach to diversity

Donald Trump seems to be counting on low Hispanic turn out in November, analysts say
29 Jul 2016 – 06:52 PM EDT
Hillary Clinton closes out the Democratic Convention Crédito: Getty Images

As Democrats and Republicans move into the next stretch of the election campaign, the two parties appear to be moving in different directions over the diversity of their voter support.

In fact, while Democrats made a point of highlighting minorities at their convention in Philadelphia, Republicans in Cleveland dismissed the issue, accusing their opponents of ethnic pandering.

“The Republicans, and especially the Trump camp, seem to have decided they don’t need the Latino vote to win,” said political scientist Eduardo Gamarra, co-author of New Latino Voice, an online poll conducted by Florida International University and Adsmovil. “They think they can win with white votes alone.”

He notes that there were 133 Hispanic delegates at the GOP convention in Cleveland and 19 African Americans, compared to 616 Latinos and more than a thousand African Americans in Philadelphia. While Republicans only have half the number of delegates, the low representation of minorities made the party’s convention one of the least diverse in decades.

There was also a lot more Spanish spoken on stage at the Democratic party’s convention, from vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine to Congressmen Xavier Bercerra and Luis Gutierrez, as well as forceful speeches from Latina actress Eva Longoria and Karla Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants.

As Hillary Clinton closed the convention on Thursday with a call for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, even some Republicans were swooning.

“America, we have starkly different choices in front of us,” Republican commentator Ana Navarro wrote on Twitter. “This speech was very different from Trump. Policy laden. Unifying. Humanizing.”

In another tweet she added: “@HillaryClinton is gonna get a bump from this Convention, folks. It's been very well done.”

The Republican National Committee disagreed. “No need to pander to Hispanics, we care, we vote and we speak English often more than Spanish. We are American,” RNC spokeswoman Helen Aguirre wrote on Twitter. She noted Democrats “promised immigration reform in 1st yr of Obama,” but never lived up to their word.

The contrast between the two parties is all the more noteworthy, analysts say, when compared to the Republican convention in 2012 which showcased a number of emerging Hispanic leaders, such as Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez.

Four years ago, Republicans justly claimed they were the party that was more effectively promoting Latinos within its ranks. While that did not translate into election results in Nov. 2012 - Mitt Romney won only 27% of the Hispanic vote - the party held a post-mortem which concluded that given the nation’s shifting demographics, it needed to do a better job of reaching out to Latinos and other minorities.

But the opposite seems to have happened.

Conventional political wisdom used to contend that Republican candidates needed 40% of the Hispanic vote to assure victory, along with 20% of the African American vote, besides a healthy share of independents. Trump’s campaign is nowhere near those targets, with less than 20% of Hispanics and 10% of African Americans.

It’s hard to know how much his campaign cares as it does not answer calls from Univision, nor allow the network to attend press conferences. The RNC did not respond to calls for comment Friday.

Some Republicans warn the party is in danger of going off the rails if it chooses to ignore minorities.

Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant and political pollster, said he disagreed with that strategy. "But IF they are right it is a short term, pyrrhic victory,” he wrote in an email to Univision.

“The long term demographic changes make this election near the last one their strategy makes any sense,” he added. “In fact, if Trump loses with this strategy, you may see the beginning of Democratic domination at the national level.”

But, in order for Trump to win, he'll need Hispanic voters to stay home, or not register to vote in key states such as Florida, Colorado y Nevada, says Gamarra.

The Hispanic vote could also be play an important role in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio.

Trump’s advantage lies in higher turnout among white voters, analysts say. “White voters appear to be determined to turn out in massive numbers. That’s what Trump has done: he’s galvanized them,” said Gamarra.

“The paradox is that as he galvanizes the white vote, he may galvanize the Hispanic vote,” he added.

Historically, Hispanics have failed to turn out in large numbers, weakening their political impact. In 1992 more than 50% of Latinos voted, with 61% casting their ballots for Bill Clinton.

Since then Latino turnout has hovered around 47%, while white turnout is up at over 60%. At the same time, The eligible Hispanic voter population has risen to 27 million.

“If 16 million turn out that would be good, but historically it’s more likely to be around 14 million,” said Gamarra.

And while surveys show a majority of Latinos support Clinton, Gamarra sees some possible wavering among Hispanics. His poll has seen Latino support for Trump oscillate between 12% and 17%, with the convention providing him a near 5% bump.

"The Latino vote has always been key, but maybe more now than ever,” said Democratic party strategist Mark Alderman. "But the turnout rate is what will determine everything because the difference between Trump and Clinton in the polls is within the margin of error and it will stay that way until November.”

Additional reporting by Fernando Peinado