A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012

Cuban-Americans helped Obama win Florida, although rising number of Puerto Ricans there may have been key; Mexican-Americans, nearly a tenth of Latino voters in the Sunshine state, also contributed

Nine new Latino members of House are all Democrats, with eight of them apparently Mexican-Americans;
Number of Hispanics in House rises from 24 to 28;
Latinos gain three seats in California and one in New Mexico

New Latino senator is Texas Cuban-American Republican Ted Cruz; the other two Latino senators also are Cuban-American (one Democratic, one Republican)

By David Gaddis Smith

      Why did President Barack Obama win Florida? One reason being cited is that not only did he win the Latino vote overall, but he also won the Cuban-American vote that traditionally has gone Republican. According to an exit poll, Obama won Cuban-Americans 49% to Republican Mitt Romney's 47%. Obama won the state by around 74,000 votes, 50% to 49.1%, according to results published over the weekend.

       Florida also elected its first Democratic Latino member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Joe García, who also happens to be Cuban-American and defeated a Republican Cuban-American.

      Hispanics made up 17% of the Florida turnout, up from 14% in 2008. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 60% of Florida Latinos voted for Obama this year, as opposed to 57% in 2008. About a third of the Latino electorate in Florida is Cuban-American. Mexican-Americans make up nearly a tenth of of the Florida's 2.1 million eligible Latino voters and contributed to Obama's victory.

       A Puerto Rican influx into Florida also helped the president. Puerto Ricans now represent more than 28% of Florida's eligible Latino voters.

       Also on Election Day, answering a two-part question, 54% of voters in Puerto Rico voted in favor of changing their island's U.S. commonwealth status. A second question asked Puerto Ricans what they would like to change their status to, and of those responding, 61% said statehood, 33% "sovereign free association" and 6% independence. But a third of those who answered the first question didn't answer the second, leaving the will of the people unclear.

Florida Latino eligible voters in 2010,
according to Pew Hispanic Center
Cuban-Americans 32.1
Puerto Ricans 28.4
Mexican-Americans 8.9
Dominicans 4.5
Salvadorans 0.9
Other 25

53% of Latino eligible voters were women, and 47% men

Nine new Latinos in U.S. House

      Nine new Latinos were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Latinos defeated other Latinos in four of those races. But because Mexican-American Silvestre Reyes of El Paso was defeated in Texas's District 16 Democratic primary by Beto O'Rourke, who won the general election Nov. 6, the number of Hispanics in the House only moved up to 28 (PDF). All except Joe García, a Cuban-American, appear to be Mexican-American. Latinos gained a total of three new seats in California and one in New Mexico. There will be 23 Democrats and five Republicans.

     The new Latino House members are:

Tony Cárdenas, California District 29 (San Fernando Valley; district revamped for a Latino)
Gloria Negrete McLeod, California District 35 (Chino; the 71-year-old great-grandmother unseated Democrat Joe Baca with help of New York Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's superPac, which saw Baca as too soft on gun control)
Dr. Raúl Ruiz, California District 36 (Palm Desert; defeats Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack)
juan vargasJuan Vargas (pictured), California District 51 (San Diego; occupies seat vacated by Bob Filner, who was elected mayor of San Diego
Joe García, Florida District 26 (unseats Republican David Rivera in rematch)
Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico District 1 (Albuquerque, first Latina to represent state in House)
Joaquín Castro, Texas District 20 (San Antonio; twin of San Antonio Mayor Julio Castro; fills seat vacated by Charles Gonzalez)
Pete Gallego, Texas District 23 (defeats Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco)  
Filemon Vela, Jr., Texas District 34 (Brownsville, redrawn district)

      The new Latino senator is Cuban-American Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. He is the first Latino to represent Texas in U.S. Senate. The nation's other two Latino senators also are Cuban-American, Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.

      Many are now saying that the new Latino force in U.S. politics will bring about immigration reform, once the issue of the fiscal cliff is dealt with.

Why did Obama win?

      Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos's "Al Punto" Sunday news talk show interviewed several of the new Latino members of Congress and also interviewed former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez about what happened in the U.S. presidential election.

      carlos gutierrezGutierrez, a Republican, echoed the analysis of many in outlining how he thought the Republicans had lost the presidential election. First, he said, the Republican primary process is flawed, as it produced candidates trying to outflank their counterparts by taking extreme positions to the overall detriment of the GOP brand. This helped bring about Republican candidates talking about electrifying the border fence, putting in moats with alligators to stop migrants, and Romney's statement that undocumented immigrants in the United States should self-deport. Romney's statement in turn helped produce a drop in the Republican Latino share of the vote to 27%, down from McCain's 31%, at a time of rising Latino vote clout. It was much too low to be able to win key swing states. George W. Bush had polled much higher with Latinos. Gutierrez also said superPACS hurt Romney because they kept other Republican candidates in the race much longer than they would have been otherwise. Not only did Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum prolong the race, but they also attacked Romney on his Bain capital ties. By the time Romney secured the GOP nomination in the spring, he was out of money to combat Obama's anti-Bain ad campaign in the summer and had much less time to build up an effective Republican get-out-the-vote operation.

       Charlie Cook, in a post-election analysis delivered to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and aired on C-SPAN, said Romney's two major errors during and before the Republican primary were taking extreme positions on immigration, such as his self-deportation remark, and also opposing the U.S. bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. The former helped Romney lose states such as Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and Florida, and the latter Ohio and perhaps Michigan. Cook also said Romney not countering the Bain ads during the summer helped Obama lock in voters in Midwestern swing states such as Ohio, and said the superPAC prolongation of the GOP primary race really hurt the Republican candidate.

       Other key factors were Obama's ground game, including getting out the youth and African-American vote. Obama had more than a year to put his operation into effect, while Romney had to play catchup. It seemed to be a reverse of 2004, when Republican incumbent George W. Bush had a long lead in putting together a movement to get out the GOP base in Ohio while Democrat John Kerrey was still trying to secure the Democratic nomination. While overall turnout was not as high as in 2008, the Obama ground game helped deliver young voters and minorities. The black vote in Ohio rose from 11% in 2008 to 15% in 2012, delivering the state to Obama. The large black turnout was attributed in part to perceived Republican attempts to restrict voting.

       While Romney's game plan was always that he would win because of the poor state of the economy, voters wound up trusting Obama more on the economy than they trusted Romney. Overall, voters said Bush, and not Obama, was to blame for the state of the economy, according to exit polls. Obama's push to win over middle-class voters may have been a big element in his victory.

       Some analysts who see broader historical factors as having major influences on U.S. presidential elections said there was not enough wrong and too much right in the nation for an incumbent to be thrown out of office.

David Letterman on Republicans and the Latino vote

        Univision's interviews with newly elected Latino members of Congress

         Not all of the new legislators interviewed by Univision's Jorge Ramos spoke perfect Spanish. Both Palm Desert's Raul Ruiz and Brownsville's Filemón Vela, Jr., made references to "la sistema" instead of "el sistema," but all made themselves understood.

         joe garcia The first interview was with Joe García of Florida, who Ramos said had finally been elected to Congress on his third try. García, a Cuban-American born in Miami, attributed his victory to persistence, and said Republicans made many errors in their approach toward Hispanics. He said Latinos are the new face of the American Dream, and credited Florida voters of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, Dominican Republic, Colombian, Venezuelan and of other Latino descent for his victory. He said Hispanic families have lost more in the U.S. downturn than other groups "because no one invests more into their home than Latino families. We have to save their homes." He also spoke of the importance of bipartisanship to move the country forward. He said his father came to the United States as a political refugee at age 17 or 18 and worked washing cars at the airport, while his mother was a waitress at Howard Johnson's. García defeated David Rivera, who had defeated him in 2010. In García's first House race, in 2008, he was defeated by Mario Díaz-Balart, the brother of Telemundo anchorman José Díaz-Balart. The interview with García.

raul ruiz           Dr. Raúl Ruiz, 39, who will represent Palm Desert, Calif., (and which Univision labeled onscreen as Palm Dessert!), is the son of Mexican agricultural workers who grew up in a trailer in the Coachella Valley. He went to UCLA and to Harvard's medical school. He said he got business leaders in the Coachella Valley to help pay for his higher education, in part based on his promise to come back and serve the community. Ruiz said he, like many Latinos, embody the American Dream; his motto was "Todo es Posible," or "Everything is Possible." The "Al Punto" interview with Ruiz.


pete gallego         Pete Gallego said he was born in the small town of Alpine, Texas, and that his first job was washing dishes in his parents' restaurant. The lawyer and state legislator seemed to like using the word "Fijese," which roughly translates as "Look" or "Listen." He represents the eighth-largest congressional district in the country of terms of area; it stretches from San Antonio to eastern El Paso. The interview with Gallego.

         filemon velaAsked about how Democrats would be able to work with Republicans to pass immigration reform, Filemón Vela, Jr., pointed to his marriage, saying he had been married to a Republican for 22 years. He said Republicans realize that the immigration system needs fixing. He said his father's family has been in the country since the 1860s and his mother's family came during the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910. His father was a judge and his mother was the first woman mayor of Brownsville. The interview with Vela.

         Will Texas become a swing state?

         Ramos asked Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio, whether Texas could become Democratic in four, eight, or 12 years. The better question might have been whether Texas could become a presidential swing state as soon as 2016. Cisneros said it will depend on Latino growth in the state, and whether Latinos continue to vote Democratic.