Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hispanic Voter Turnout Looms Large

By on February 25, 2016

During an exclusive interview with this newspaper’s editorial board, which took place during the Puerto Rico Investment Summit recently held inside the Puerto Rico Convention Center, Caribbean Business Editor in Chief Heiko Faass asked former New York City Mayor Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani to comment on presidential hopeful Donald Trump. In no uncertain terms, Giuliani expressed his support for Trump, pointing to the real-estate tycoon’s successful track record in business as a virtue that would likely make Trump an effective president. “He has tapped into the anger of the American people just as Bernie Sanders has done,” said Giuliani.

Although this newspaper strongly disagrees with that assessment—we believe Trump is more likely to set the world aflame than to spark economic growth—it will be up to the voting public in the United States to decide whether they believe it is healthy for democracy to back such divisive rhetoric. Whether “the people are mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore,” to borrow a phrase from the Oscar-winning movie “Network,” is soon to be seen. The answer to that question will commence to be articulated on Super Tuesday (March 1) when 12 states hold primaries. All told, some 632 delegates will be at stake in both parties. By the time the dust settles, we will know whether we are in for a dogfight in both parties. With the threshold at 1,237 delegates for the nomination, strong showings by Cruz and Rubio could present the possibility of an open convention for the first time since 1948.

A most important subtext to that plot will also be defined on March 1—the strength of the Hispanic vote. There are some 26 districts in five of the states that have seen Hispanic populations nearly double. Will that necessarily translate into votes?

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, “one potential bright spot for turnout efforts is the fact that a growing segment of eligible Hispanic voters comes from immigrants who have become naturalized citizens. That demographic tends to have higher voter-turnout rates. In 2012, nearly 54% of immigrant Latinos voted, compared to just over 46% of U.S.-born Latinos.”

By the time CNN breaks down the results of those 12 contests in the late evening of March 1, we will all have a better idea of voter turnout in Hispanic bastions. It will help to establish whether second-generation Hispanic voters, who are highly absorbed into the dominant culture, are open to the exclusionary rhetoric being spewed by Trump. So, too, will we know whether an increasingly bicultural U.S. citizenry will be a force to be reckoned with come Nov. 9, 2016, when the general election is held.

A huge Latino turnout will weigh the strength of the Hispanic vote. That test of muscle looms large in the context of key battleground states, with few bigger than Florida where Puerto Ricans who have fled the island’s economic depression could play a huge role in delivering the state’s 99 delegates. Since 2006, nearly 290,000 of our people have out-migrated to the United States. The number of Puerto Ricans, who largely favor Democrats, is almost equal the number of Cubans, who have traditionally favored Republicans.

As Trump, Rubio and Cruz vie for delegates, Republicans will likely be asking themselves who has the best shot at winning the general election. Is it Trump, who has inflamed passions with anti-immigrant rhetoric? Hispanic turnout on Tuesday will play a big part in answering that question. We will be vigilant.

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