Why is Biden falling short of his party’s expectations with Latino voters?

Today’s Washington Post includes a front page story the essence of which is that Democrat operatives are frustrated that President Trump is making inroads with Latino voters. The Post attributes Trump’s inroads to (1) lack of direct outreach by the Biden campaign to Latinos and (2) lingering resentment over deportations that occurred during the Obama administration.

I have no reason to doubt the reporting that Team Biden hasn’t done a good job with outreach, and I don’t deny that Biden could improve his position by pandering. However, the Post’s Sean Sullivan largely ignores some very plausible additional explanations for Trump’s inroads with Latinos.

First, presidential candidates typically do better with Latino voters when they run as the incumbent. Of the five incumbents who have run since 1980, all but George H.W. Bush accomplished this. Obama increased his share of the Latino vote as the incumbent (but not with the electorate as a whole), notwithstanding his first term deportations of illegal immigrants.

Second, many Latino voters don’t want to see anything approaching socialism in America. Biden, meanwhile, is relying on Bernie Sanders’ machine to gin up Latino turnout, according to the Post. This might help Biden with younger Latinos, but it might solidify doubts about him among older ones.

Third, Latinos noticed how well the economy was doing under Trump before the pandemic hit. This reality surely disposed some of them to vote for Trump. What we don’t know is the extent to which they blame Trump for the devastation caused by the pandemic and/or the shutdowns.

Finally, a fair number of Latinos may favor Trump’s tough stance against illegal immigration — not some of his rhetoric, but his policies. Latinos who came here legally might well resent those who did not, especially if they view the illegal immigrants as competitors for jobs.

I don’t know how these advantages will play out for Trump, but the Post is wrong to assume that Biden’s problems with Latino voters are confined to Obama-era policies and poor outreach.

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