Democrats, Republicans court Latinos on economy in tight Nevada Senate race

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Latino voters will make up 20% of the electorate this fall Nevadawhere Democrats and Republicans expect the vote of a growing constituency to swing a competitive race that could determine which party controls the US Senate.

Polls show the incumbent Democratic senator. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate, slightly behind Republican Adam Laxalt. With early voting starting next month and the campaigns coming to a close, both parties are courting Latino voters with a closing message focused on the economy.

Republicans say the state’s high inflation rate and growing economic anxiety give the GOP the best chance to tap into working-class Latino voters and flip a key Senate seat.

“The Latino vote will help us win in November,” said Jesus Marquez, a special adviser to the Laxalt campaign. “If we get 35%, that would be an overall victory, but I estimate we’ll get 40% of the Latino vote.”

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Adam Laxalt, Catherine Cortez Masto

Getty Images/Trevor Bexon, Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images


Republicans also point to former President Donald Trump’s gains with Latinos in Nevada in 2020 as reason for optimism.

Trump won 35% of the Latino vote in Nevada two years ago, up seven points from 2016. According to CBS News exit surveysTrump also made significant gains among Latino men nationally, from 30% in 2016 to 43% in 2020.

Nevada’s voting population split in thirds, with registered independents second only to registered Democrats. While President Joe Biden won the 2020 Latino vote in Nevada 65%-35%, barely won statewhich came out on top by just 33,600 votes.

That narrow victory in the state — despite a sizable margin in Latino voters — is why Democrats and Republicans are racing to win over Latino voters. Their vote will help decide the winner of that Senate seat and potentially decide which party takes control of the U.S. Senate. With the Senate currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, each race is critical for both parties.

According to a recent poll, more than half of Latino voters nationwide say they plan to support Democrats and emphasize the economy as a top issue. New York Times/Siena College Survey. But Latinos are nearly split on which side they agree with on economic policy: 43% say they prefer the Democrats’ handling of the economy, while 41% say they prefer the Republicans.

“The economy has just been a big issue for Republicans in the state,” a GOP strategist familiar with the Laxalt campaign told CBS News. The strategist also said Laxalt’s campaign is demonstrating through the final report that “Cortez Masto is part of the problem that created this economy.”

The The covid-19 pandemic severely affected Nevada’s economy, which is heavily dependent on hospitality and tourism. The shutdowns at the height of the pandemic led to a nearly 30% unemployment rate, double the national average.

Latinos, who make up a large portion of the workforce that has been hit hard during the pandemic, have also contracted COVID in greater numbers relative to their share of the population in Nevada.

Nevada Unemployment rate fell to 4.4%, but the state’s inflation rate is 15.4% it is among the highest in the country. Nevada also has the third highest average gas prices at $5.21 per gallon AAA.

Republicans in Nevada hope this will lead to Latino voters expressing their frustration by rejecting the party in charge.

But Democrats say voters’ concerns about the economy are an opportunity for them to highlight President Biden’s legislative victories, such as the passage of the Build Back Better Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Everything we’re talking about is about the economy,” said Josh Marcus-Blank, director of communications for the Corteze Masto campaign. “We will continue to talk about the ways the senator has supported the Latino community, the small businesses she has saved, and good union job opportunities.”

Cortez Masto’s campaign also ran ads promoting the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. Democratic advocates say their party can’t brag about its accomplishments and must highlight those wins while reaching out to the Latino community.

“Latinos are in a constant window of persuasion, they’re actually some of the most persuasive voters we have in the electorate,” said Tory Gavito, co-founder and president of Way to Win, a national Democratic group that is investing $2.3 million in it. to bring in colored voters in Nevada. “If you tell them what Democrats are doing to support them in this economy, they’re going to vote Democrat,” she added.

That’s the playbook that Make the Road Nevada, a left-leaning organization focused on turning away 76,000 Latino voters in the East Las Vegas area, is trying to implement on the ground.

“When my community needed help, the Republican Party was nowhere to be found,” said Leo Murrieta, director of Make the Road Nevada. “They didn’t open food banks, they didn’t open vaccination clinics, they didn’t do any of that. It was the Democrats who came together and made it happen so our families could literally survive.”

It’s the same message the Culinary Union is pushing as it deploys 270 full-time paid workers on behalf of Democrats in Las Vegas and Reno to knock on more than 1.1 million doors, nearly doubling their efforts since 2020.

Ted Pappageorge, union secretary and treasurer, said they are reminding voters that funding from Democrats allowed the group to turn one of its training facilities into a food bank that has supported an average of 1,800 members a day for more than a year.

While Republicans are confident they can attack Cortez Masto on economic issues, her campaign also sees an opportunity to go on the offensive by talking about abortion rights and highlighting Laxalt’s involvement with Trump’s campaign (Laxalt served as Trump’s 2020 co-chairman in Nevada ) a op-ed Laxalt wrote that thousands of incorrect ballots were cast in Nevada.

Marcus-Blank said Cortez Masto’s campaign will portray Laxalto as the “face of the big lie” in Nevada. Cortez Masto also focused on abortion rights, making the issue central to her campaign following the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

More than 70% of eligible Latino voters support a woman’s right to vote, according to a recent poll UnidosUS, one of the largest Latino advocacy organizations in the country. In Nevada, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks into pregnancy, and Republicans acknowledge that the state’s voters are pro-choice.

But Cortez Masto’s campaign sees abortion as a way to mobilize Latino voters and attack Laxalto.

“It’s also about reminding the threat that Adam Laxalt poses. He would be an automatic vote for a federal abortion ban,” Marcus-Blank said. A GOP strategist familiar with Laxalt’s campaign said abortion protections are enshrined in state law and “voters know that’s not going to change,” adding that Laxalt opposes a federal abortion ban.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently proposed legislation that would federally ban abortions after 15 weeks. In response to whether Laxalt would support the bill, a Laxalt spokesman said the bill “has no chance of passing Congress,” adding that “Nevada law was settled by voters decades ago and will not be changed.”

As the campaign heads into its final weeks, Cortez Masto and Laxalt are running ads in Spanish. Earlier this month, Laxalt launched an ad in Spanish to highlight the economy. Cortez Masto broadcasts in Spanish and discusses unionization, health care and abortion. The Cortez Masto campaign also drew endorsements from more than 200 Latino community leaders in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Outside groups like Somos PAC, a left-wing Latin American voter mobilization group, are also spending money to air Spanish ads. Democrats set aside nearly $90 million in ad space in the final weeks of the election, while Republicans set aside more than $70 million.

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