Posted on June 2, 2020

Trump Appeared to Be Gaining With Latino Voters — but Coronavirus May Cost Him Crucial Support

Geraldo Cadava, MarketWatch, May 29, 2020

Until the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump appeared poised to maintain the estimated 28% of the Latino vote he won in 2016, if not build on it.

Hispanic business owners in particular had been raving about President Trump’s tax cut and financial deregulations. Raymundo Baca, the head of the Border Hispanics for Trump group, told me he thought Trump could win 35% or 40% of the Latino vote. Trump surrogate Steve Cortes, a radio talk show host who also is the spokesperson for a Trump-supporting super PAC, predicted on March 9 that Trump could “win the Hispanic vote in November.”

Winning a majority of the Latino vote would be no mean feat: it’s something no Republican candidate for president has ever accomplished. Even at the time, Cortes was being an overly optimistic partisan, but now it seems even less likely that Trump will be the first to do so.

If Trump can’t hold on to his share of the Latino vote from 2016, the pandemic’s devastating financial impact on Latino business owners will be the reason. As much as their religious beliefs or anti-communism — which aren’t entirely separable from their financial concerns — the pro-business attitudes held by many Latinos has driven their support for the Republican Party since at least the Nixon years.

It was President Nixon who appointed the first Hispanic to head the Small Business Administration, created the National Economic Development Association to help Latinos start their own businesses, established the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, and more generally saw support for the Latino business community as the Republican Party’s signature civil rights initiative that was every bit as important as the social and political efforts waged by Democrats.

Ever since, Republicans have believed that they have the edge among Latino business owners, a relatively small but influential group of Latino voters overall. This has remained true during the Trump years.

Year Candidate Vote, according to exit polls
1980 Reagan 35%
1984 Reagan 37%
1988 G. Bush 30%
1992 G. Bush 25%
1996 Dole 21%
2000 G.W. Bush 35%
2004 G.W. Bush 40%
2008 McCain 31%
2012 Romney 27%
2016 Trump 28%
Source: Pew Research


Conservatives cited polls conducted in 2019 finding that almost half of Latinos approved of the job Trump was doing. In the early days of the pandemic, Cortes cited polls finding that Latino support for Trump — including for his handling of the coronavirus — hovered at around 40%, which, he said, was a “massive problem for the Dems.” Even today, according to a Hill/Harris X poll, some 44% of Hispanics have reported their approval of Trump.


The cornerstone of Trump’s sales pitch has been that the economy he built has helped Latinos reach heights they hadn’t reached under any other president. {snip}


Because of his tax cut, four in five Latino-owned businesses expected to increase their revenue this year and many business owners, Trump said, planned to hire more workers. Because of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Latino-owned businesses will gain even greater access to North American markets, he said.

Over the past two months, though, coronavirus has turned the economy upside down, including for Latinos. The government’s biggest program to help small businesses suffering because of COVID-19 hasn’t really worked for Latino businesses. Almost a quarter of Latino-owned businesses applied for funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, and one survey of 500 Latino business owners found that fewer than 20% of Latino applicants received money. Many applicants never heard back.


Almost two-thirds of Latino business owners said their businesses wouldn’t be able to survive longer than six months, and more than half said they had already begun to lay off workers or reduce their hours.


But it’s unclear how long Latino business owners — seen as a critical voting bloc by both the Trump and Biden campaigns — will be patient, since their community has been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.


{snip} Trump could lose a constituency he cannot win the election without.