Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto


Victoria is a political scientist that got the political nerd bug in middle school student council. Today she hangs her hat at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and engages in political wonkiness on MSNBC, NBCNews.com, and Telemundo among others. more→


Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding the politics, policies and people that shape our fascinating yet frustrating political landscape. Her areas of expertise include immigration, Latinos, women, political psych, & elections.

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Recent Media

This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.

You can’t tune into news about the campaign without hearing about Florida.  As a non-Floridian this obsession can get a bit tedious (I admit living in Texas I get jealous of not getting any attention from the campaigns), but the fact of the matter is that Florida is a big political deal.  The Sunshine state’s general electorate is a swing-y one, leading both parties to aggressively court the state.  But what is truly exceptional about Florida is that its Latino population is just as split; if there is one state where the balance of the presidency hangs on Latinos it is Florida.

Florida is the largest battleground state in terms of electoral votes, 29.   Texas and California are larger but are irrelevant given their deep shades of red and blue, respectively.  And in the 2012 presidential race Florida is a must win for Mitt Romney in order to have a shot at the White House.  Florida is also important for President Obama, though he could still reach the 270 electoral vote mark without it, it would be a risky path.  Both presidential candidates want this state badly and have demonstrated as much with the highest campaign ad spending by both campaigns taking place in Florida, totaling $136 million.

RELATED: Rove says GOP is ‘doomed’ if it alienates Hispanics

But what makes Florida unique is that the race for the Latino vote in Florida is just as fierce as it is for non-Latino Floridians.  While there are sizeable Latino populations in the swing states of Nevada and Colorado they differ in that only a minority of Latino voters identify as Republicans.  In other words, the battle for Latino votes in these states is not so much in persuading them to vote for one candidate over another as it is in getting them to turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate.  Florida is an entirely different story in that it is the battleground state with the most Latino diversity in terms of partisan affiliation. (more…)

This post originally appeared on MSNBC’S Voices.

In the political equivalent of an HBO boxing match, Mitt Romney and President Obama pounded away at each other round for round Tuesday night with only brief moments of respite in their corners while audience members posed their questions.

Had I been ringside I would have left with that adrenaline pumped feeling of having witnessed a raw competition between two superb athletes. But therein lies the problem. The debate last night wasn’t supposed to just be a mano-a-mano battle for the pleasure of the viewing audience. Completely absent from the town hall was the town. Both presidential candidates ignored the audience and bypassed any effort at connecting with the townies.

President Barack Obama should have taken a page from Bill Clinton’s 1992 town hall playbook. When one female town hall participant asked the 1992 presidential candidates, “How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives,” George H.W. Bush fumbled. He even had to ask to have the question repeated because he didn’t exactly understand what she meant. After a couple of minutes of Bush awkwardness in swept Clinton with his detailing of the human side of the national debt and how this was indeed a personal issue for him. Clinton’s hands-down win in the 1992 town hall debate was the result of his human touch and focus on the participants.

The second presidential debate of 2012 goes down as a draw with a slight edge toward the president. It could have been a resounding win for President Obama had he followed the Clinton playbook.

The human connection matters. As we know from social psychology, individuals process information and messages more deeply when they can relate to the messenger at an emotional level. According to social group identity theory, if I perceive that you care about the same issues I do, and you engage me, then you’re probably like me and I want you to represent me. (more…)

This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.

As a teacher, it is clear which students show up to class having done their homework. Last night, Mitt Romney was that student who not only did his homework, but also did the extra homework review. Hard work does pay off and in my book he gets an A+. Now, the President was like one of those students you know is bright but that showed up to the test thinking he could wing it. But winging it either in the classroom or a presidential debate doesn’t get you much more than a C+. Last night Romney not only did his homework but had the classroom behavior that any teacher loves—confidence and respect. In contrast, the President was not the star student last night, but there’s still time in the semester.

The Mitt Romney that showed up last night was the “turn around” expert. He was the kid that had the reputation of being a good student but had recently been struggling. A core part of Romney’s narrative is that he is the guy that can right the ship. He can take failing businesses or in the case of the Winter Olympics, a failing program, and bring about success. However, until last night, his turn around pitch for the economy had not gained traction. Mitt Romney not only turned around his flailing campaign at the debate, he once again made his Mr. Fix It brand a central component of this election.

The Barack Obama that showed up last night was the same that spoke to the Democratic National Committee Convention earlier this year in Charlotte. But the crucial difference is that in Charlotte, like in high school debates, the President got to tap out and sub his partner—Bill Clinton. Last night, there was no Clinton to make up for Obama’s lack of preparation.

Elections like grades are determined not just by a single homework assignment or debate. There are still two more presidential debates and one vice presidential debate to go before final grades are turned in. (more…)