Posted on March 10, 2020

The Latino-Shaped Hole in Joe Biden’s Electability Argument

Ryan Cooper, The Week, March 9, 2020

Joe Biden has a major potential weakness that nobody is talking about: Latinos. He has been losing this constituency by big margins in the primaries so far, and his terrible record on immigration issues could easily depress Latino turnout in the general election. {snip}

Nominating Biden runs a significant risk that he will fail to turn out this core Democratic constituency and lose to Trump.

Ever since Bernie Sanders’ campaign ran aground in the South in 2016, his failure to attract more black support has been a major focus of media attention. {snip}

However, the Latino-American vote has gotten much less attention, despite the fact that the national Latino population is about a third larger than the African-American one. Here Sanders has also been conducting an extensive outreach campaign, and by all accounts it is working very well. He won Latinos in Nevada by 36 points; in California by 35 points, and in Texas by 13 points.

Conversely, while Sanders has indeed failed to woo African-Americans so far, there is little question that he would get their votes in a general election. Favorability polls show that black voters have very positive views of Sanders, and reporting shows that they swung to Biden in South Carolina almost entirely because they were convinced that Biden was most likely to defeat Trump. {snip} But if Sanders were the nominee, he would certainly get a huge super-majority of black support.


Unlike Sanders (who has a very solid record on civil rights and racial justice issues) and black voters, Latinos have good reason to be suspicious of Biden. As a senator in the ’90s, he supported several harsh war-on-crime bills that made it easier to detain and deport even legal immigrants. More importantly, Biden was vice president under Barack Obama, who pursued mass deportations with such fervor that immigrant rights activists dubbed him “deporter-in-chief.” {snip} Worse, when an immigrant rights activist asked Biden about the issue last November, Biden got angry and snapped, “You should vote for Trump.” {snip}


There are significant Latino populations in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and Colorado — and since they make up nearly 40 percent of Texas, fully turning out that vote could very well win that state and the presidential election at a stroke. It is a terrible risk to put up a nominee who once again gives every indication of taking this constituency for granted.