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Where Latino Voters Can Have the Most Impact

Nov.02 -- Mike Madrid, Lincoln Project co-founder, talks about the impact Latino's could have on the presidential election. He appears on "Balance of Power."

Video Transcript

MIKE MADRID: Address the question of the Latino vote. How important is it? Is there-- there's a perception, at least, that Latinos don't turn out as much to vote. Is that accurate?

MIKE MADRID: That actually is accurate. But the size and segment of the Latino share of our population and of the electorate has gotten so big now that even with lower voter turnout rates, Latinos will surpass African-American voters this year as the second largest racial and ethnic voting group in the country. So it's a very critical constituency. Its sheer size is now a force to be reckoned with in an electoral sense. And while there has historically been lower voter turnout than other groups, we will see a historic turnout of Latinos in November, November 3, just a couple short days away.

DAVID WESTIN: We refer to the Latino vote. But as a practical matter, it's not a monolith, right?

MIKE MADRID: That's absolutely right. And again, as it gets bigger, we start to learn more and more about the complexities. Cuban-Americans, of course, are changing the dynamics in Florida. The southwestern United States is overwhelmingly Mexican-American. There's a lot of identified Puerto Ricans, of course, who are already American citizens throughout the Eastern seaboard, from New York down to Florida. Central Americans are a huge part of the Floridian electorate. And we are seeing Mexican-American populations grow in places like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, even Iowa.

DAVID WESTIN: So we've been talking about the swing states, or battleground states here, that include some of those you just mentioned, such as Florida, such as Pennsylvania, and, for that matter, Arizona as well. Where could the Latino vote and showing up or not showing up make a significant difference in the presidential?

MIKE MADRID: It's a great question. Arizona, certainly. Texas, of course, is a battleground state and is a battleground state in large part to the rise of the Latino electorate. Florida, of course, with its complex Hispanic community, because it is so diverse. Pennsylvania, there's a good pocket of about 100,000 Hispanic voters, which could be decisive. North Carolina and Iowa. Really we're hitting a point in American history where this will probably be the last election where Hispanics will not be central to most of the battleground states as we determine the next president of the United States.

DAVID WESTIN: So give us a sense between President Donald Trump and the former Vice President Joe Biden, for whom is the Latino more important? And let me be very specific on something. It was reported on Bloomberg just last Friday that perhaps some people in the Biden camp were concerned about voter turnout among Hispanics, particularly in South Florida.

MIKE MADRID: That's a great question. The answer, unfortunately, is it's critical for both of them for different reasons. It's absolutely central to Donald Trump's ability to take Florida. He's invested massively in Miami Dade and South Florida and trying to get and consolidate as much of this Cuban vote as he possibly can. Cubans make up about 6% of the Floridian electorate. About half of those are breaking for Biden and half of those are breaking for Trump. Those are good numbers for Donald Trump. Biden's going to have to do a little bit better, as the Bloomberg News article reported.

Now you switch over to Texas, it's really about turnout. And if they do get the turnout, they being the Biden campaign, I do expect there's a very good possibility that Texas could actually flip to the Democrats column. I think the Hispanic vote in Arizona will actually be decisive for Biden.

DAVID WESTIN: What are the things, if you can summarize, in general, what are the things that typically drive a Latino to turn out and vote? What do they care about the most?

MIKE MADRID: Well, this is a fascinating question and a really good one. For 30 years, Hispanics have been telling us that jobs and the economy are the number one issue, followed closely by education and health care. The reason why I say it's a good question is because more often than not, we stereotypically look at issues like immigration, driver's licenses for the undocumented, or building a border wall, or having kids in cages being the driving issues.

While those are, of course, extremely important to the community, they should be important to absolutely everybody. And one of the reasons why we do see lower turnout is because neither major party is addressing the economic concerns of the fastest growing segment of the American population. And until that's reconciled, we probably we will not see higher turnout levels. And whichever party is able to capture that economic agenda and aspirational middle class agenda for Latinos will probably be the majority party for the next decade.

DAVID WESTIN: Mike, we have a different issue, different from the last 100 years, in the pandemic this time. We've had a number of reports about how it has disproportionately hit the Latino community and the African-American community. By the way, Native Americans as well. Is that a motivation for Latinos? Are they focused on COVID-19, particularly?

MIKE MADRID: That's a really good question. The answer is, yes, they are, not only because of the health and safety and the disproportionate impact. Again, Latinos are three times more likely to be infected, largely because Latinos make up the essential workforce that keeps the economy running that at times of pandemic, it allows other people to quarantine. But also because death rates have not only gone up and skyrocketed in the community, but the economic destruction, those the most economically devastated by this pandemic are people of color generally and Latinos specifically.

So I do believe that this will be a driving issue. Most polling suggests that it is. The one big variable is what's that going to mean on Election Day. Latinos are notoriously late deciding as a part of the electorate. And they are overwhelmingly Election Day voters. I expect we will see very, very large numbers from Hispanics showing up on Tuesday to vote, alongside Republicans. Kind of an odd marriage. But those people standing in long lines tomorrow will be rural white Republicans and Latino Democrats.