Feature:Opinion

Who’s scared of Marco Rubio?

Photo of Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
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      Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

      Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto received her Ph.D. from Duke University. Her research and consulting portfolio focuses on campaigns and elections, political psychology, gender, race, Latino politics, and immigration. Victoria regularly contributes to national and international media outlets. You can find Victoria at www.DrVMDS.com and follow her on twitter: @DrVMDS

I was recently asked by Sean Hannity if Democrats were scared of Marco Rubio being the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate. The short answer is no. The long answer lies in the fact that Rubio cannot help Republicans solve their “Latino problem.” Rubio is a politico who has two bases of support: Republican Cubans and Tea Partiers. The latter could potentially help the Republican ticket, but a number of other possible vice-presidential candidates also have Tea Party cred. The former, Cubano Republicans, are a small fraction of the Latino population. More importantly, Cubanos vis-à-vis non-Cubano Latinos hold very different political preferences.

As of 2000 Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States. Currently, they make up 16% of the population. Two-thirds of Latinos in this country are of Mexican origin, followed by Puerto Ricans at 9.1%, Salvadorans at 3.5% and Cubans at 3.4%. Cubans are not only a relatively small portion of the Latino population, they are the most geographically concentrated. Close to 70% of Cubans reside in Florida. Cubans stand out from their fellow Latino sub-ethnic groups in a number of different socio-economic indicators. Cubans are on average older, better educated, and have higher incomes and stronger English language skills than their non-Cuban Latino brethren.

The most notable difference among Latinos is that Cubans are the only group that primarily identifies as Republican. In Florida, 63% of Cubans identify as Republicans, 21% as Independents and 16% as Democrats. This stands in stark contrast to Mexicans and Puerto Ricans who identify with the Democratic Party at 65% and 60% respectively. Independent non-Cuban Latinos make up a quarter of the population followed by 10% who identify with the GOP. Cuban and non-Cuban Latinos are almost complete opposites in their partisan allegiances.

Partisan identification is the most reliable predictor of vote choice. The Florida 2010 Senate race was no exception. Rubio received 62% of the Latino vote. More specifically, he cleaned up among the Cuban community, receiving close to 80% of their support. By contrast only four out of 10 non-Cuban Latinos in Florida voted for Rubio. Rubio indeed has overwhelming CUBAN support, but this does not translate into Latino support.

In placing Rubio on the presidential ticket the assumption is that pan-ethnic affiliation will trump partisanship. This is a weak assumption and one that tends to be more the exception than the rule. There are significant cultural and historical differences between Latino subgroups in the United States. To begin, the push/pull factors that brought Cubans to this country are very different than the factors that brought Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Central Americans (with the exception of Nicaraguans). Second, the current socio-economic status of Cubans is consistent with the more affluent leaning of the Republican Party. Latinos of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent by contrast are among the poorest individuals in the country.

Partisan cross-over voting can and has occurred in the past. Democratic and Democratic-leaning Latinos have crossed party lines to vote for a Republican candidate. For example, George W. Bush was able to garner a small but noticeable bump in his Latino support. And it was not his Spanish language skills or ethnic surname that got him Latino support. It was his pro-active and laser-focused Latino outreach. Dating back to his days as governor of Texas, Bush and Karl Rove developed Latino outreach through symbolic strategies, but also in promoting legislation that Latinos valued — immigration.

  • Anonymous

    Are the democrats and the author of this piece assuming latinos are going to vote in lock step as the black community has forever? I think not. I scratch my head all the time at why the black population wants to be patted on the head and bought off so they can be kept in poverty. You never hear the so called black leaders stress education and hard work ethic as the way out…it’s always keep em poor and victims. The latinos I know would not fall for stunts like that. Hard working family oriented and wanting to make a better life is what I see mostly in the latino community. Case in point…the grocery store I love most here where I live has a huge clientele of hispanic shoppers. I never see a woman without her husband and kids in tow shopping together…I always think to myself…they really have strong family bonds in so much as they show it in public. I think they will vote for who they think will make America a better place not just as a voting block like a herd of sheep and union workers because they always have. Where has it gotten them? In the black community right now have the highest unemployment rate in the country. Obama has failed all of us miserably thinking he can buy votes to remain in power while so many are unemployeed in the country of all colors.

  • Anonymous

    How many in this latino category are illegals? Are they being counted…If they can get false Social Security cards rest assured the dems will make it very easy for them to vote. The last election cycle here where I live I went to my polling place and signed in and before I could ask for a ballot, the poll worker shoved a democrat ballot into my hand, when I said to her, no thanks, you assumed wrongly she was red faced that I was going to tell someone, which I did and then I asked for the ballot I wanted. The polling places are lax and populated with Union people who will do anything to keep the Obama administration in power. It will never happen though, America has been asleep the past several years but are finally waking up to the possibility that we are going over a cliff with the current POTUS and his dangerous vision that is destroying America. The Enquirer just did a story on Michelle Obama’s wild spending of 10 million dollars in tax payers money on her own vacations. Remember the Enquirer did the truthful story before anyone else had the guts on the John Edwards scandal. When you have a bought and paid for liberal main street press you have a very dicey and dangerous situation for America. The presses agenda is the same as Obama since they hold most of us in contempt….news flash we feel the same about the press.

  • happy days

    VIctoria you are 100% correct! Finally, some accurate political analysis regarding Latinos.As for why the Democrats are not afraid of Susana Martinez, they are. But they feel the GOP is too stupid to pick her.

  • Pingback: Rubio's Early Promise | Election 2012

  • Anonymous

    Funny to hear the author of this article (a devoted Libtard) use xenophobia to sell her political philosophy.  I don’t recall black people opining about Obama’s roots (half-white, half Nigerian) and claiming he wouldn’t appeal to non-Nigerian (or half-white) blacks. 

    Liberals always use race or sex to demean people they disagree with.  This person is just another in an extremely long line of Leftists to do it without any sense of irony.  The word bigot doesn’t even begin to describe her. 

    • thin ladee

      It’s not xenophoba. Latino is a manufactured category created by Nixon and his Cuban best friend Bebe Rebozo.