L.E. Baskow/Reuters/File
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses for pictures before speaking at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 18, 2015. The Nevada Democratic caucus on Feb. 20 has emerged as an unusually important test of Sanders's and Clinton's political strength. Clinton is under pressure to keep her wide lead among Latinos, while Sanders must erode it to show he has a path to the nomination that does not rely on the Anglo voters who make up the core of his support base.

Nevada caucuses: Who has the Hispanic vote?

Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio have counted on a strong voter turnout by Hispanic Nevadans at the end of the month. But competitors' efforts may be dimming their chances. 

As the Nevada caucuses approach, GOP and Democratic candidates are scrambling for the Latino vote. 

The reason is obvious: in Nevada, 17 percent of all eligible voters are Hispanic. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Marco Rubio have been the presumed front-runners in Nevada because of their Hispanic support in the state, but their victories are becoming less and less certain.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign focused on Nevada from the beginning, putting organizers on the ground in April 2015, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hired his first Nevada staffer in October. The former secretary of State has played up Mr. Sanders’s late start in the battleground state, portraying his Latino appeals as disingenuous. 

“On the ground, it is really difficult to compare 30 years to 30 days,” said Emmy Ruiz, Clinton’s Nevada director, to CNN. “And that is something we keep hearing from different communities. They have been with her since day one.” 

But Sanders doesn’t shy away from Clinton’s "30 years to 30 days" comparison. In fact, he embraces it. The difference embodies Sanders’ anti-establishment campaign, say supporters. Rania Batrice, Sanders’s Nevada spokeswoman, says the campaign’s 12 field offices in Nevada are staffed by young, Hispanic volunteers who believe in Sanders’s “political revolution.”

“This is a system that isn’t working for the everyday person. It’s one of the reasons why I decided to endorse Bernie Sanders,” said Lucy Flores, a former state assemblywoman now running for Congress, in an ad launched in Nevada last week. 

And after Sanders’s 22-point win in New Hampshire last week, the Clinton campaign is working to lower expectations for Nevada, where the Democratic caucus will be held Feb. 20.

“You have a caucus-style format, and he’ll have the momentum coming out of New Hampshire presumably, so there’s a lot of reasons he should do well,” said Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman, on MSNBC last week. 

Between their immigration policies and “incendiary” rhetoric, GOP frontrunners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump likely never stood a chance with the Latino electorate. Marco Rubio, with his Latino heritage, a history of bipartisan immigration efforts, and no viable competitors, seemed to have the Hispanic vote locked up

But in the final days before the Feb. 23 Republican caucus, GOP Latinos in Nevada are sounding less enthusiastic.

"In recent weeks, Rubio has taken a hard-right turn, painting all immigrants as possible terrorists,” following in Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz’s footsteps, said Dolores Huerta, an organizer with People for the American Way, to NBC.

“I think Marco is probably going to win Nevada, but it could be a bellwether for whether the GOP can attract a material portion of the Hispanic vote with Marco, or someone else,” Danny Vargas, a political media consultant, told NBC. 

But the battle for Latino voters may not matter much after next week.

“Few states with large Hispanic populations are likely to be key battlegrounds,” explains a January Pew Research Center report. California, Texas, and New York are hardly considered toss-up states, yet together they account for 52 percent of all US Latino voters. Eligible Hispanic voters in contested states such as New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin make up less than four percent of the electorate. 

But Florida, Nevada, and Colorado are the outliers in a larger national pattern. Unlike the other 47 states, these three check out in both categories: they are unpredictable in presidential elections and they have a sizable Latino population. 

In traditional red or blue states, presidential candidates don’t focus on the Hispanic vote, which in turn leads to a dismal Hispanic voter turnout rate, Pew suggests. In 2012, 64 percent of whites and 67 percent of blacks voted, while only 48 percent of eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls.

Ruy Teixeira, who studies demographic voting patterns at the Center for American Progress, says writing off the Hispanic vote is a “risky strategy” because this demographic has the greatest proportion of young voters. 

According to Pew, almost 12 million Hispanic millennials are already eligible to vote, and that number is growing with every election. For now, their numbers are dwarfed by the 42 million white, non-Hispanic millennials, but they already account for almost as large a voting block as the Asian (3 million) and black (10 million) millennial demographics combined.

[Editor's note: The headline on the original version of this article misstated the format by which Nevada Republicans and Democrats will select presidential candidates for each party.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Nevada caucuses: Who has the Hispanic vote?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today