Friday, March 25, 2016

Latino voter turnout will likely be at record levels

It has been suggested that a relatively low turnout in the Democratic presidential primary signals there will be a lack of enthusiasm that could dampen Democratic chances in November.

The first part of the argument is certainly true.

Only about 1.4 million voters took part in the Texas Democratic primary earlier this month, half the 2.8 million who voted in the Republican primary.

Some Democrats did vote in the Republican primary, including some who were concerned for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

I’m told Straus felt the need to ask at least one supporter not to put up a yard sign for him — next to a Bernie Sanders sign.

More significantly, the Democratic primary was a relatively low-key affair.

Sanders chose not to take on the expensive task of running aggressively in the nation’s second-largest state, especially since Latinos are not a significant part of his constituency.

Meanwhile, millions were spent on the Republican side with a dozen name-brand candidates on the ballot and Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio very much in play.

The extent to which the vigor and competitiveness of a race determines turnout is demonstrated by what happened in Texas in 2008.

Then, 2.9 million Democrats turned out in the presidential primary, compared to just 1.4 million Republicans — a mirror image of this year.

It was a May election with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton still battling each other, whereas John McCain had wrapped up the Republican nomination.

The primary turnouts were not predictive of November results then, and they won’t be now.

In 2008, eight million Texans swarmed to the polls in November to give McCain a 55-44 victory over Obama.

This year Texas almost certainly will again go Republican.

But there is a good chance that national results will differ.

Likely Democratic nominee Clinton will beat likely Republican nominee Trump with the same coalition that elected Obama twice — weighted heavily by larger than usual turnouts of blacks and Latinos.

I’m not suggesting that Clinton will light up these constituencies.

But consider two likely dynamics.

First, President Obama has signaled that he intends to campaign with an energy we haven’t seen from modern departing presidents.

He has good reason.

Both Trump and Cruz have promised to immediately reverse many of his most important accomplishments — most notably Obamacare.

And he clearly cares a great deal about the future of the Supreme Court.

Obama will be especially effective at encouraging blacks to go to the polls.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, Univision, has begun a campaign to register 3 million Latinos to vote, and to convince them to show up at the polls in November.

KWEX-TV, the San Antonio Univision outlet, is fully part of the effort, and not just using their bully pulpit.

In January, more than 20 of its staffers, including anchor Jorge Nuñez, were trained and sworn in as deputy voter registrars.

According to the New York Times, Univision’s efforts will include “an aggressive schedule of advertisements on all its video and digital platforms, including 126 local television and radio stations and the sports channel Deportes.”

Meanwhile Mexican consulates throughout the country are running free workshops assisting eligible Mexicans to get dual citizenship so they can vote.

San Antonio’s consulate is planning a workshop April 9 with the assistance of Catholic Charities and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

I believe Latino turnout will likely be at record levels.

It’s not that Clinton will electrify them or even that Univision will register them to vote.

It’s the ammunition they are given.

Donald Trump will drive the Latino vote.

Univision will just help him get his message out — and remind their viewers of the message if he seeks to soften it.

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