Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→
Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.
This piece first appeared on NBCnews.com
Iowa and New Hampshire have a number of virtues, electoral diversity isn’t one of them. The lack of diversity in the first two nominating contests makes Nevada’s upcoming caucus all the more relevant, especially for Latinos. The Silver state is just a few percentage points shy of becoming a majority-minority state and has one of the largest Latino shares of the state population making up 28 of the population.
Nevada has a large and growing Latino population. But beyond its demographics the state has become ground zero for a maturing Latino political voice -both among Democrats and Republicans. Going into this weekend’s Democratic caucus and next week’s Republican Caucus here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the first nominating contest that trains the spotlight on the nation’s largest minority.
1. Latino Presence – Old and New
Not all Latinos (or their ancestors) crossed the border, for some the border crossed them. Nevada was originally part of Mexico, becoming a U.S. territory after the Mexican-American War. There are deep Latino roots in the Silver State. At the same time, the last 30 years has seen a rapid increase in Latinos. From 2000-2010 the Latino population grew by over 80 percent and as a result accounted for almost half of the state’s overall population growth.
2. An Eligible Voter Boom.
Not surprisingly, the growth of eligible voters has followed behind Nevada’s Latino population growth. There was a lag since the first large immigrant waves were not naturalized citizens and thus ineligible to vote. By the 2008 election the Nevada Latino electorate had started to make its mark at 15 percent of Nevada’s voters. And in the last eight years there has been an increase of 70 percent in the Latino eligible voter electorate – they now make up about 17 percent of the prospective voters. And with the high number of millennials the electoral footprint of the community will not be slowing down anytime soon. (more…)
Mitt: it was a long hard slog but we did it, now comes the run to the middle. You’ve got a lot of ground to make up after out-righting the right but no steeper will your climb be than with the Latino electorate. Moving forward here’s our three-pronged Latino action plan – hold the line with the Cuban vote, throw in the towel with the Latino Democratic vote, and fire up the Republican and Republican leaning Mexican voters in the West as if you’re life depended on it because well, politically it does.
Operation Hold the Line – Cubans in Florida
You’ve already got the Cuban love, now just keeping stoking that fire of good feeling. We mopped the floor with Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul in the January primary. However, don’t loose sight of the fact that the Latino component of this win was highly concentrated among Cuban immigrants in Miami-Dade County. Any hopes that we can get the Puerto Rican vote in the Central part of the state is pure Disney World fantasy.
So we don’t need to worry about revving up the older Cuban voters that fled the Castro regime—and yes, I won’t forget to send Ozzie that thank you note. What does worry me is the American-born Cuban voters. I’m especially worried about all of those Cuban jovencitos that fell under Barack Obama’s spell in 2008. We have a shot with them, but we can’t keep coming back to our Fidel line. To keep them in the Republican fold and most importantly out to the polls we’ve got to relate to them on a policy level. I’ll be working on that end, but in the meantime don’t let up on the Rubio flirtation!
Operation Throw in the Towel – Latino Democrats
You are not George W. Bush and I am not Karl Rove. We’ve got to face the fact that we don’t have a well-developed strategy or history of courting crossover votes from Latino Democrats. Our primary election strategy of cozying up to the Tea Party anti-immigrant blitz closed off any chance of gaining a second look from Latino Democrats. And yes, even the very socially conservative ones. Regrettably that darned issue of immigration has remained number one or two among Latino Democrats. (more…)