Why are Ted Cruz and Mario Rubio disliked by some Latino voters?

A burgeoning Latino voting community may have more clout over the election than Republicans think.

REUTERS/Evan Semon
Latino leaders and immigration reform supporters gather at Farrand Field on the campus of the University of Colorado to launch "My Country, My Vote," a 12-month voter registration campaign to mobilize Colorado's Latino, immigrant and allied voters October 28, 2015. The rally was held ahead of a forum held by CNBC before the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Boulder.

In anticipation for Tuesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate, a group of local voters and activists met for a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas Monday to discuss the Republican Party’s prospects for the Latino and immigrant community. Crucial to the conversation were two names: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, both candidates from the Latino community.

But the talk wasn’t to praise the two candidates: it was part of a new campaign launched by liberal Hispanic groups to turn Latino voters against the two Republican Cuban Americans.

“While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language,” the press statement read. “The positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”

2016 might be the year for Latino voters, whose voting population has increased substantially in recent years because the US Hispanic population is “exploding.” From 2000 to 2012, the Hispanic population grew by nearly 49 percent – making much of the voting population still quite young and potentially more significant in future elections. 

The Latino voting community has been strongly against Donald Trump for his tough views on immigration, especially on the US-Mexico border. But targeting fellow Latinos – Cruz and Rubio – is something of a new tactic. 

“The shift in tactics to target Rubio and Cruz, in addition to Trump, reflects a concern among some Democrats that the prospect of a history-making Hispanic candidate atop the Republican ticket could draw many in that crucial voting block back to the GOP,” writes Mary Jordan for Washington Post.

Historically, Republicans have not been popular amongst the Latino voting community. During the 2012 elections, Republican nominee Mitt Romney had only 27 percent Latino support. In the 2010 midterm elections, Hispanics voted nearly 2 to 1 for Democratic candidates, and did so again in 2014. Obama’s approval rating among Latino votes was 50 percent. 

A July-August Gallup poll showed Jeb Bush as the top GOP presidential candidate among Hispanics. Rubio was No. 2.  Trump and Cruz finished last. 

The latest national poll by ABC News-Washington Post shows Republican voters overall prefer Trump (38 percent), but Ted Cruz has risen to second place (at 15 percent), Rubio right behind (at 12 percent), while Ben Carson has fallen to 12 percent. Mr. Bush has fallen to 5 percent. 

Many Republican candidates have tried hard to win over the Hispanic voting community. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie won 51 percent of Hispanic voters after investing millions of dollars on Spanish-language radio ads, direct mail, and taking a softer stance on getting undocumented immigrants children free education.

But Rubio and Cruz have taken strong stances on immigration.

“It’s not comfortable for us to do this, to call out members of our own community who don’t reflect our community values, but we have no choice,” Cristóbal Alex, president of the Democratic-backed Latino Victory Project, told The Washington Post.

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