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Abbott and the Latino vote

I have four things to say about this.

Still not Greg Abbott

When Lily Benitez pulled into her driveway in the Donesta neighborhood here Saturday morning, she was surprised to see Greg Abbott coming toward her. It wasn’t just because he’s the attorney general of Texas and a candidate for governor.

It was also because he’s a Republican, and this patch of borderland happens to be the most reliably Democratic part of the state.

“I’m a Democrat,” Benitez said somewhat sheepishly to the reporters following Abbott around as he visited several neighborhoods. “I never thought I would see him here, so I will have to look into it.”

Abbott is betting that enough voters like Benitez, who works at a local bank, will make a rare swing over to the Republican Party this year and help him break the Democrats’ near lock on deep South Texas.

“I think we have a legitimate shot at either winning the Rio Grande Valley” or coming close, Abbott told reporters Saturday after a rally here. “There has never been this level of outreach and expenditure by a Republican.”

Winning a large piece of the South Texas Hispanic vote would be a major coup for Abbott — and a sign that GOP leaders are preparing for the future. The Latino population is exploding in Texas, and Republicans could lose their grip on statewide office if their performance with Hispanic voters doesn’t improve.

1. I confess to being a little concerned about Abbott’s outreach efforts, however superficial they may be. As they say, a big part of success in life is just showing up. Abbott is doing that, which is more than all of his statewide ticket-mates are doing. There are a lot of people who need to be asked for their vote, but if you do ask them, they will at least consider giving it to you. All that said, there’s nothing in this story to indicate that Abbott is making any gains. There are no quotes from Democrats who say they will vote for him, and no quotes from local Republicans who say that Abbott’s efforts have boosted or energized them in any way. The one actual supporter they quoted was one of the people from elsewhere that Abbott’s campaign bused into McAllen for the debate. Maybe the Trib didn’t go looking for any such people, but you’d think the Abbott campaign would have been happy to point them to some if they had any at hand. Even the door-knocking event that opens the Trib story was apparently little more than a photo op, as Peggy Fikac’s account of the encounter with this same voter makes clear. Again, Abbott is making a wise investment by wooing Latino voters, and just making the effort ought to help him, but if this is any indication there’s not much there.

2. What exactly does Abbott have to offer Latino voters? According to the story, there are two things: He married a Latina, and he’s anti-abortion. All those other issues – education, health care, immigration, transportation, water, etc etc etc – go unmentioned, because who cares about them when he’s got a madrina? As far as abortion goes, Latinos are actually more pro-choice than you might think. For a more specific illustration of that, here’s the record vote in the House on HB2 from last summer. This is the list of Latino Democrats that voted FOR HB2:

Guillen; Herrero; Martinez

And here is the list of Latino Democrats that voted AGAINST HB2:

Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Canales; Cortez; Deshotel; Farias; Farrar; Gonzalez, M.; Gonzalez, N.; Guerra; Gutierrez; Hernandez Luna; Lucio; Marquez; Martinez Fischer; Menendez; Nevarez; Oliveira; Perez; Raymond; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Villarreal; Walle

For those keeping score at home, that’s 3 Yeas and 25 Nays. In the Senate, it was 1 Yea and 6 Nays, including two (Zaffirini and Uresti) that had voted for the sonogram bill in 2011. Any questions?

3. More generally, why do we think that pro-life Democrats are any more likely to cross over than any other partisans? If there’s been any research on this topic, I haven’t seen or heard of it. Democrats remain a fairly broad tent, but overall both parties are a lot more ideologically aligned than they have ever been. As such, the sort of culturally conservative person that had historically been a Democrat is for the most part a Republican already. This includes a lot of people that jumped ship over the abortion issue. The pro-life Dems that remain, it seems to me, must be very well aligned with the Party on most other policy matters, or maybe they’re just Democrats deep in their bones. Either way, I don’t see why they would be more likely to stray in this race than any other bloc of voters that has a beef with a particular party plank. (See, for instance, the Log Cabin Republicans, however many of them there are left.) Show me some data on this, or I will consider it to be another unsupported article of faith.

4. I look forward to the Trib’s story on Wendy Davis and Battleground Texas bringing their campaign to traditionally Republican strongholds like Collin and Williamson Counties.

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