Posted on February 20, 2020

Nevada’s Latino Voters Will Test Bernie Sanders’ Appeal

Kate Sullivan and Maeve Reston, MSN, February 19, 2020

The 17-year-old son of Mexican immigrants, who was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018, is voting for the Vermont senator largely because of “Medicare for All.”

Trejo-Ibarra, after going into remission, decided to get more politically involved and will serve as a precinct captain for Sanders in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. It fills a dual purpose for him: He wants to fight for people who can’t afford insurance, which covered his own cancer treatments. And he wants to help those who can’t speak English participate in the upcoming caucuses.

Sanders is counting on young Latino voters like Trejo-Ibarra, who can participate in the caucuses because he’ll turn 18 before Election Day, to carry him to victory in Nevada.

Nevada will be the first real test of whether Sanders has been able to expand his appeal in the diverse universe of Democratic voters, particularly within the Latino community, where the Sanders campaign made a huge push to connect with voters more than eight months ago.


{snip} Businessman Tom Steyer has invested heavily in the state, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are also running ads in Spanish as they look to court Latino voters.

But in interviews with more than two dozen Latino voters in Spanish and English over the last few days in predominantly Latino areas of Las Vegas, Sanders’ came up most often, with younger Latino voters describing a particularly passionate desire to elect Sanders. Voters of all ages said they liked Sanders’ plans on health care, education, the environment and tuition-free college.


At the same time that Sanders was rallying voters and leading a march to an early voting location, former Vice President Joe Biden took the microphone at a middle school gymnasium just a 10-minute drive away. Attendance at his Latino-focused phone-banking event was sparse, filled in part with footsoldiers from California who had come to the state to help canvass for him.


There, Biden reminded the crowd, “99% of the Latino vote hasn’t spoken yet.”

Biden led the Vermont Senator in two January polls from Suffolk University and Fox News, with Sanders coming in second. But polling has been consistently off the mark in Nevada, not only because it’s difficult to predict who will participate in a caucus, but because many casino workers work unusual hours and the state has a constantly changing population with movement in and out of the state.

Age composition of Saturday’s turnout will also be a factor. Sanders has a huge edge among younger voters, while Biden does better among older ones. The Sanders’ team hopes to see a robust turnout among young voters. The fact that 56% of early voters this weekend were first time caucusgoers was a good sign for the Vermont senator.

Sanders had the edge among Latinos nationally in a Pew Research Center poll of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters last month: 30% favored the Vermont Senator, 22% supported Biden, 11% backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. All of the other candidates were in low single digits.

Months of targeted outreach

The caucuses will be a test of the Sanders’ campaign’s heavy investments in Latino outreach. Gleaning their data from voter files, Sanders’ team estimates more than 101,000 Nevada Latinos have registered to vote since the last caucuses. That number is huge considering only 84,000 Democrats caucused in Nevada in 2016.


In 2016, the campaign recognized Sanders’ popularity among Latinos, senior Sanders adviser Chuck Rocha said, “but we learned it too late to capitalize on it, because we were building the airplane and flying it at the same time.”

This time, it started investing resources eight months ago, hiring from within the community through what Rocha describes as a multi-layered communications operation.

“If you can think of any way possible for a Latino of any age to consume information to learn about the election, we were talking to them on that platform,” Rocha said in an interview with CNN.

Beyond television, that included mailers, newspapers, Instagram, Facebook, Spanish-language radio, panel trucks, texts, phone and ads on music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.


The Sanders campaign says it now has more than 250 staff members on the ground in Nevada. It opened the first of their 11 Nevada offices in the predominantly Latino area of East Las Vegas last July. In December, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-hosted the first Spanish-language town hall for Sanders and the campaign has led caucus trainings in Spanish, as well as in languages such as Tagalog, Mandarin and Vietnamese.


Steyer, who has spent $14.7 million on ads in Nevada to Sanders’ $1.9 million, also came up frequently in interviews with Latino voters, with a majority of people saying they had seen or heard an ad from the campaign.

Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are all running ads in Spanish in Nevada. Buttigieg, who speaks Spanish, narrates his own ad in Spanish. {snip}


Buttigieg, who is looking to build on his strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, now has more than 100 staff members on the ground in Nevada and more than 40% of them speak Spanish, according to the campaign.

The former mayor was quick to criticize Klobuchar Sunday after both she and Steyer were unable to name the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during interviews with Telemundo in Nevada last week. During a town hall Sunday in Las Vegas, Buttigieg was asked what it says about Washington experience that “a sitting US Senator could not name Mexico’s president?”


Buttigieg’s operation began pushing out Spanish-language digital ads in December, as well as Spanish-language radio ads, which were also narrated by the former mayor. It opened it’s East Las Vegas office in mid-September, conducting caucus trainings in Spanish, and providing Spanish-language canvassing tools to their volunteers—including their “relational organizing” tool that allows a volunteer to contact their own contacts on behalf of Buttigieg.


Rosie Beltren, a 65-year-old housekeeper who works on the Las Vegas strip and supports Sanders because she believes he will raise the minimum wage and help the many immigrants working in Nevada who don’t have a pathway to citizenship.


“There are a lot of people who need their papers for work — they are good people, they work so hard, but they can’t get papers,” Beltren said.