Wednesday, November 11, 2020

How Trump won over Latino voters in the Rio Grande Valley

While Joe Biden was competitive in Texas, President Trump was able to win over the heavily Latino, reliably Democratic counties in the Rio Grande Valley along the border, helping him carry the state. 

"The bluest of blue counties along the river, Zapata County, flipped to President Trump, who won 52.5 percent of the vote. It was the first time since Reconstruction that a Republican presidential candidate won Zapata County," Arelis Hernandez and Brittney Martin report for The Washington Post. That may seem odd to outsiders who may see voters as Latinos first and rural residents second, but rural conservatism is nothing new, said University of Texas-San Antonio political scientist Sharon Navarro.

The difference, she says, is that this year Republicans did the work to court these voters and tailor their message about the election around the economy and jobs. Republicans won those Rio Grande counties by "taking advantage of the habitual underinvestment and lack of infrastructure there, as well as neglect from the state and national Democratic parties," the Post reports. "The shift extended through the more than 1,200-mile border, from the populous lower delta of Brownsville and McAllen to the sparse ranchland near Laredo and the high desert of El Paso."

Biden won most of the valley counties, but by much smaller margins than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. "The story of Trump’s performance and Biden’s backslide along the Texas border, experts say, shows the importance of cultivating deeper relationships with a diverse Latino population that continues to claim a growing and dominant share of the Texas electorate," Hernandez and Martin write.

Courting the Latino vote, especially in Texas, is more important than ever. Latinos make up about 40% of the Texas population and about 30% of its voters, and that number is rising. Each year, more than 203,000 Latinos come of voting age in Texas, Rogelio Saenz, a UT-San Antonio demographer, told the Post, which reports: "While White migration to the state has slowed, Saenz said, there has been a significant increase in Latinos and African Americans moving to Texas in recent years."

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