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Latino dreams, NY States of Mind

We are counting down to the US midterm elections on Nov. 8 by separating the signal from the noise on election-related news.
Ari Winkleman

Hi there! Welcome back to our new daily feature, Midterm Matters, where we pick a couple of red-hot US midterm stories and separate the signal (what you need to know) from the noise (what everyone is yelling about). Enjoy and let us know what you think.

GOP looks to Latinos for upsets in Texas ... and beyond?

Republicans are betting on three Latina candidates to overturn decades of Democrat dominance in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Dems are still the party to beat, but Republicans have made major inroads with Latino voters in South Texas, seeing double-digit swings to the GOP between 2016 and 2020, when Trump spoke to local Latino voters’ anxiety about disorderly immigration and the impact of Democrats’ climate agenda on the energy industry there. This time, GOP candidates are also appealing to local voters’ conservative and Catholic values.

Nationwide, there’s a lot of noise about Dems' advantage with Latino voters fallingfrom 40 to 27 points since 2018. That’s because the GOP has begun to more effectively campaign among Latinos beyond the reliable Republican bedrock of South Florida Cubans (even if their outreach to them is still catchy as hell.) And with 40% of Latino independents undecided, there are lots of votes up for grabs.

But while Latinos are now the second-largest — and fastest-growing — ethnic/racial group in America, the signal is this: they are hardly a monolith, politically or demographically. For example, Latinos of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin tend to vote blue, while Cubans and Venezuelans skew red. Evangelical Latinos, a rapidly growing community, are overwhelmingly Republican, while two-thirds of Catholic Latinos vote Democrat. Second and third-generation Latinos tend to tilt more Republican, though younger generations across the board are more sympathetic to Democrats. Immigration matters to some Latino communities, while the economy or abortion is more pressing for others. In sum, as one super sharp 2020 study put it: “There’s no such thing as the ‘Latino vote.’”

NY governor’s race tightens

Democrats are noisily freaking out that Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is closing his polling gap in the New York gubernatorial race against incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul, with Empire State voters seemingly digging Zeldin's tough-on-crime message. The two took part in their first and only debate on Tuesday night.

Yet Zeldin winning is a long shot. The race has tightened, mainly due to Zeldin hammering his rival with daily press conferences about rising crime rates outside NYC subway stations while spending millions on TV campaign ads. But Hochul's lead remains well above the margin of error, a strong signal that she's likely to eke out a win.Democrat hand-wringing aside, a shock Zeldin victory would be a tectonic shift for deep-blue New York, whose last Republican governor was George Pataki (1995-2006).

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