January 11, 2012 Do Republican Latinos do better among Latino voters?
In 2010, there were three major statewide campaigns (governor/senate) involving Republican Hispanic candidates. There were no exit polls in New Mexico (which elected Republican Susana Martinez governor) so our sample size is two; Florida and Neveda.
In Florida, exit polls showed that Sen. Marco Rubio won 55 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Gov. Rick Scott won 50 percent. Since both won the same percentage of the overall vote (49 percent, though Rubio’s total was a little more impressive since he was running in a three-way race), Rubio’s background was arguably worth 5 percent of the Latino vote. Since Latinos comprise 12 percent of the Florida electorate, this means Rubio’s background may have gotten him as much as 0.6 percent of the Florida vote (assuming that he didn’t lose any white or African-American voters to offset this advantage).
However, the pattern from Neveda is very different. Gov. Brian Sandoval won 33 percent of the Latino vote, while winning the election with 53 percent of the total vote- a 20 point gap. This result might be impressive if he had outpolled other Republicans among Hispanics. But the results here are at best ambiguous. On the one hand, Sandoval’s 33 percent of the Hispanic vote was better than Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s 30 percent.
But relative to his total vote share, Sandoval actually did worse among Hispanics than Angle. How so? Angle only got 45 percent of all voters, so she did 15 percent worse among Hispanics than everyone else. By contrast, Sandoval, as noted above, did 20 percent worse among Hispanics. So there is pretty much zero reason to believe that Sandoval’s name helped him among Hispanics, if exit polls are to be believed.
My takeaway: if Republicans do select Rubio for VP, it shouldn’t be because he’s Hispanic (given the minimal evidence of higher Hispanic support for GOP Hispanic candidates), it should be because he’s from a big swing state. And frankly, I think it is always less risky to nominate a VP with more statewide experience than Rubio. (Who? Tune in for later posts…)