After Flores’ win, could Latino vote be shifting Republican?

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After Mitt Romney lost to President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party conducted an “autopsy” in an attempt to determine how to best move forward. The following year, the GOP produced a report that noted that Republican success in future elections would depend on reaching out to Hispanic voters. Democrats were skeptical.

But after Republican Mayra Flores’ June 14 victory in the special election for Texas’ 34th Congressional District, GOP gains in Texas are finally being realized.

The 34th Congressional District sits in the Rio Grande Valley and is about 84 percent Latino. While voters in the district went for Hillary Clinton by 21 points in 2016, in 2020 that number had plunged to four points for Joe Biden. Since then, Republican gains with Hispanics have continued. In 2021, McAllen voters elected a Republican mayor, Javier Villalobos, and now Flores has defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez to become the first Mexican-born congresswoman.

So are these recent successes for Republicans with Hispanic voters the start of a longer trend or just a midterm moment resulting from an unpopular Democratic president?

Republicans think it’s part of a broader trend that has been a long time coming. While I dislike looking at political issues by dividing people into groups, Republicans have always believed the party’s emphasis on faith, family and supporting small businesses should connect with Hispanic voters.

Republicans promote the right to life and a person’s right to respectfully worship at any time or place of their choosing. Republicans have long placed an emphasis on finding ways to strengthen the core family unit. And it is Republicans who have consistently promoted policies that seek to get the government out of the way and give hardworking people who own small businesses the greatest chance to succeed.

But while Republican and Hispanic values have always seemed to align, recent GOP gains with Hispanic voters are likely more directly related to the leading issues of the moment. Ruy Teixeira, a demographics expert, co-editor of the Liberal Patriot newsletter and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has written that Latino voters have come to view the Democratic Party as one not focused on their primary concerns — unsupportive of law enforcement, too lax on border security and too focused on racial disparities.

In fact, a recent poll conducted by NBC News showed that Hispanics believe that under current Democratic control, the country is moving in the wrong direction by a margin of 5 percent, and by that same margin they believe that the Democratic Party has been “kidnapped by Progressives.”

Polling consistently shows that for Hispanics, just like the majority of the country, the health of the economy is paramount. As such, it is not surprising that increased Hispanic support for Republicans and President Donald Trump in 2020 can be directly tied to Latino families enjoying faster growth in wealth between 2016 and 2019 than either Black or white families, along with Latino unemployment dropping to historical lows, according to data from the Federal Reserve Board. Not coincidentally, Flores’ winning campaign message centered on returning to an “American First” agenda based on lowering the cost of goods and creating good-paying American jobs.

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