Are Democrats Blowing It With Latino Voters?

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S1: Chuck Roka advises Democrats on how they can win over Latino voters. He likes to call himself a redneck, wears a big cowboy hat. I guess what I’m saying is he’s got an ego.

S2: Have you read one of the 100 articles about the lagging support amongst Latinos for Joe Biden? I’ve read a couple of them. Yeah, only 99 of them. I quoted it.

S1: He also runs the country’s largest Latino superPAC. Then they go to professional judgment. Oh, but I like this. Chuck, can we say with this, Chuck, I’m going to plug in my good Mike. When I called up Chuck, I wanted to talk about this cringe worthy video of Joe Biden that came out this week. In it, Biden is addressing supporters in Florida. He’s got a TOTUS can Biden sign on his lectern? And after he walks up, he whips out his phone and starts playing dispositive, you know, be all right.

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S3: And while he’s up there, one guy, the guy who wrote the song, actually is awkwardly clapping until the moment.

S1: Even in this particular moment when social distancing has made every campaign event a little uncomfortable, this appearance stood out.

S3: It’s just like when campaigns sometimes try to throw in a few Spanish words that you teach your white candidate, it just always lands a little flat.

S1: What happened here? And also seemed to reinforce that narrative. Chuck’s been talking about that Biden is in trouble with the crucial Latino demographic. A poll that got released earlier this week showed Latinos in Florida prefer Trump by four points.

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S3: He’s just been trending underneath the performance of Hillary Clinton, underneath the performance of Barack Obama. And he’s just had a soft number with Latinos, especially in Florida. And that’s just the fact of the matter. So it’s woke a lot of folks up.

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S4: Yes. Sounds like this polling didn’t surprise you, though.

S3: It didn’t surprise me at all.

S4: Today on the show, Chuck Roja, he says he knows what’s going on here, even knows a way to fix it. But Biden supporters, they’ve only got a few short weeks to receive his message. I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next? Stick with us.

S1: Let’s explain a little bit about your background, because you’re a Democratic strategist, you run a PAC that’s focused on the Latino community and in the primary, you supported Bernie Sanders, right?

S3: I supported him and he paid me a lot of money, if that’s supporting him. Yes.

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S1: You helped him craft a strategy that would explicitly connect with Latino voters. So what did that look like?

S3: Well, I would correct one thing. And I know you mean no disrespect by it, but I was a senior adviser for the entire campaign. And I just because of that position, I got to sit in rooms where the decisions actually were made to make sure that Latino programs were fully funded. And I say that now on the air because it’s probably the biggest mistakes all campaigns make with their Latino outreach.

S1: It sounds like you think that’s an important part of what the Sanders campaign did, which is you were just in charge of things.

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S3: It’s almost the most important part. And it’s not because it was Chuck Rocha. It’s because I’ve said in that meeting, that’s the layer below that meeting for 20 years, where they come back around Labor Day and go, you know, the budget is tight. We really got to double down on these white, persuadable voters. So we’re going to cut the Latino budget. Keep in mind, we had really talked to any Latinos in most campaigns up until Labor Day. Most campaigns wait to the last three or four weeks and then they start talking to Latinos and black voters. What I wanted to prove since I was in the chair to make decisions with Bernie is that I would build out something that nobody had ever seen before, which at the end of the day, thank God, had dramatic results. So I could point to you can never say Latinos don’t vote again. Now that we’ve proven that if you treat a Latino voter like a white, persuadable voter, giving them information early and often and in language and with culturally competent consultants, you can get a dramatic amount of them to show up for you and in great numbers for you. So people are always shocked when I say, guess what? We did not have a Latino outreach department at the Bernie Sanders headquarters and are like, well, then how did you do all of this work? Because we integrated it into everything we were doing. Well, they were like, what did all these two hundred we heard that you had to Telstra. We had 200 Latinos on staff because guess who was in charge of hiring everybody? MI so every department head, every office, every state had a Latino in a leadership position to run the overall campaign. So they were making sure that Latinos weren’t left out there. You couple that with a starting six months early talking to Latinos in every state, spending millions of dollars and then having a candidate who was rock solid on an economic issue that most Latinos could relate with. That’s Nevada. That’s the perfect storm. That’s how we got seventy three percent of the Latino vote in the Nevada caucuses.

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S1: You know, it’s funny, you said usually in a political campaign, you know, right after Labor Day, folks begin scrambling and saying, oh, my gosh, we had to pay attention to the Latino vote. It feels like we’re right on time.

S3: Here it is. I mean, now they’re like, I can’t believe these Latinos are underperforming. And I’m like, well, have you seen the giving charts that shows how much money you’ve actually invested with Latino organizations? Joe Biden has done what he’s supposed to do. He’s come up with good policies that will help Latinos. Latinos like the policy, but now we have to get that to them to tell Latinos what you’re going to do, Joe Biden, to make their life better. Now he’s going to spend more money now than Donald Trump. Yes, he started late. Coronavirus crippled him a little bit. And he’s trying to make up for that because his numbers were soft. And I think he can get there. But that’s not enough. He will spend more money, he being Biden campaign than Hillary and Barack Obama. But in a time of covid, when you have a man who Latinos don’t know, he doesn’t have name ID. He’s not Bill Clinton’s wife. He’s not Barack Obama, a rock star. You have to spend more time and money. And guess what? You can’t knock on their doors because it’s a coronavirus. So you need to send twice as much mail, twice as many digital ads and twice as much TV with a demographic that you normally under invest with. Anyway, that’s the reason that you see the underperformance.

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S1: I mean, you’ve written that by some estimates, 60 percent of eligible Latino voters in battleground states are going to sit out the 2020 election. And I know you’ve done some focus groups where you’ve talked to voters like this. What are they telling you about why they would make that decision?

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S2: Well, the first thing is, is a reiterating a new poll that came out this morning from Natalio for all of your listeners, Nalliah was the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. They are nonpartisan, C three organization. They’re probably the most nonpartisan Latino group out there, made up of state reps, city councilmen, county commissioners that are Latino. And so what they found in their national poll of Latinos in battleground states is that 60 percent of Latinos that they talked to had not heard from either campaign. So if you’re not hearing from either campaign, guess what? You have a high likelihood of not doing voting. And I’ve tried to explain this to people, and it’s almost too simple. For them to understand they were like, Chuck, what was your secret weapon to get all of these new Latinos to show up in the primary for Bernie Sanders and was like, you got your pen and paper, you go ask them, no, no, no. What was the message strategy and what message strategy? You go ask them. Well, what was the matrix that you use to figure out what demographic hierarchy you would use to deliver, what aspect of what communication strategy? I’m like, nope, again, too complicated. Just go ask them. They literally couldn’t get it through their head that if you will start a conversation by asking them a few months out and then starting a conversation that can lead to a policy discussion, then you can engage them and give a person a Latino a reason to go vote. But if you show up in the last two days, that’s not reason enough to say Donald Trump is bad. You’ve got to go vote. It was it was common throughout the focus groups to your to the answer to your question is, during these focus groups, it was two things that came up all the time. Latinos said, look, we get that Donald Trump is not with us and that he is crazy. We get it. You don’t tell us no more. But you need to tell me because I don’t know Joe Biden what he’s going to do to make my life better.

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S1: I think we should be really explicit about how slim the margins are in a lot of states and how that impacts the importance of the Latino vote. And it makes this part of the electorate even more important, especially in a place like Florida, where it’s always kind of a jump ball and the nail biter and we’re always sort of waiting to see what’s going to happen there. So in Florida, how could the turnout of Latino voters really shift the margins?

S5: It’s about a new demographic of Latinos. And let me explain that, that Florida is changing at a dramatic pace when it comes to Latinos, folks in New York City or sitting in Nebraska, when they think about Latinos, they just think about Cubans down in Miami. But that’s just like less than 20 percent of the overall total Latino population. And most of them, half of them are conservative Republicans who would never vote for any Democrat. So people always lump us together. So we put that out there first. There’s just such a big difference between Cubans and the other demographics that are there. You layer in over the last four to six years this dramatic increase of the Puerto Rican population because of these hurricanes that have happened on the island and the downturn and the collapse of their economy, where you have all these multigenerational families having to live together in the fourth quarter because they had to literally leave the island that they love. So there’s another undertow of a cultural competency that you need to understand when you’re talking. Then you have all of these other Latinos from South America who’ve escaped Venezuela, who were very rich, very conservative, who have a different ideological thinking. When you say democratic socialist to them. And then on top of all of that, you have like Mexicans in Tampa that are part of a farming community. And what I’ve just described to you are so culturally different of a group of people. But on a voter file, it all says Latino and nothing distinguishes them on the voter file other than they are all Latino. So to win this thing, you’ve got to win it on the margins. You go you go to Little Havana, you go talk to Cubans, but you really concentrate on Cubans under the age of 60. Hmm. If you’re a Democrat, if you’re a Democrat and you really double down on younger Cubans under the age of 40, Cubans that are were born in America and not on the island act much differently to messaging. So you try to cut your losses there and that’s where you go there and you put up a good fight, but you don’t double down, were you? Double down is in the AF or corridor because that’s where the Mexicans and the Puerto Ricans live. And that’s the base of your support currently. Now, Donald Trump is winning like 60 percent of Cubans, but Joe Biden is winning 70 percent of Puerto Ricans. So that’s where you double and triple down is where your base is to get more people to come out and vote. But establishment white consultants don’t understand the theory of trying to get a new brown voter to show up versus the money spent to go persuade another old white woman to vote for Biden, who may have voted for Trump the first time.

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S1: I mean, you’re talking about getting voters to turn out who are really kind of a new slice of the electorate. And, you know, you can see Biden getting out there and trying to do that. But I wonder if we can talk a little bit about what you see Trump doing that might be connecting with Latino voters, too, because like you said, I think a lot of people think of this voting group as a monolith and it’s not. So what are some of the things you’ve seen in the last few months where you thought, you know what, other people might not be seeing this, but I can see how Trump is making inroads with this community.

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S3: Look, I’m going to say some of this highly unpopular with Democrats, and that’s normally what I do in my comms team hates me for it. But I will say that Donald Trump is brilliant at marketing. He is wrong on every Latino issue that Latinos care about from top to bottom. He’s literally putting babies in cages, but. Brilliantly, he will naturalize people on stage at an RNC convention. He will put Cubans one after another on that stage at the most highly covered event of the Republicans get together and talk about their redemption story of being an immigrant and coming to this country and Donald Trump being with them lock, stock and barrel. He will go out and spend millions of dollars on Spanish language, TV and radio commercials talking about how bad Joe Biden is. All of that combined together goes against everything that he’s actually doing in real life. But real life is not voting for somebody. When you are fighting for your life with covid, you’re trying to figure out how to get your bills paid down. Or Trump’s on your radio every day around your TV telling you about how he’s made America great. And keep in mind, the last point is that he don’t have to win 50 percent of the vote. He’s not even trying to win a 40 or 70 percent. He knows he just needs to pass off five or six percentage points in this state, three or four in this state. He’s re-elected. If that happens.

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S1: And I wonder, too, if the voters that the president is trying to talk to folks from Venezuela, Cuban families, older people and Cuban families, I wonder if those folks are more likely to vote historically. And so in some ways, it’s an easier time than someone like Joe Biden would have.

S2: Convincing folks who’ve just come here from Puerto Rico and are climate refugees essentially to vote what you have just talked about in the one hundred and eighty five different articles that’s been written in the last two weeks about the Latino vote. Nobody has said or made the point, which is brilliant that you just made because it’s way down in the weeds. Now, what you’ve said is these people that came from Cuba who automatically become citizens the moment their foot touched the U.S. soil and then they got a check from the government, it’s like, welcome to America, let’s get to work. Or these Venezuelans who become U.S. citizens, like they are highly, highly motivated to vote and they vote at higher rates than even white people. Right. But then you have Puerto Ricans who’ve just gotten here, Mexicans who have moved here from Texas or other places who are just not talked to as much and don’t have the same, that they are also not as wealthy as many of these Cubans. So they just have more life getting in the way of them having to vote, maybe two jobs, lower income, you know, all of the things that stand in the way of most working class people trying to figure out how they’re going to sit and figure out how to stand in line for three hours when they’ve got to go to their second job. You couple all of that with the coronavirus that has everybody laid off, everybody losing their health care, Latinos dying at three times the rate, our children eight times as likely to catch it based off of the CDC report.

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S5: Then you’ve got the perfect storm of how this has come to be.

S1: I wonder if that knowledge that you have is hard earned because your candidate, Bernie Sanders, really struggled in Florida. He did motivate the Latino vote in lots of places. But Florida, man, it was hard.

S2: It was hard, but it was a place we didn’t really play two points on Florida. One is we didn’t spend any money in Florida. It was over by then. And if you don’t spend any money talking to Latinos, listen to Chuck Rocha, even talk about his own guy and my own operation. We were out of money. We were we were done by then. So I never expected to win the Latino vote in Florida. The one thing that’s crazy outside of us not competing in Florida is that Bernie Sanders. This makes Republicans eyes twitch. Bernie Sanders won the Cuban vote in the Democratic primary in Florida.

S5: Hmm.

S2: Keep in mind this for all you boys and girls at home, Democratic primary base of the party, crazy Republicans who want to talk about socialism don’t vote in the Democratic primary. So those are the young people you’re talking about? Yes, I am. I guess the second and third generation folks who look at the world much differently than their mother and grandmothers do that we didn’t hear about much. It was 51 49. Thank you for your honesty.

S1: OK, so we’ve talked about Florida, which is, I think, what really got so many people talking about Biden and the Latino vote this week in particular. But I think it might be useful to talk about Florida versus Arizona because different things seem to be happening there. And it seems to get to your point, too, that the Latino voting, quote unquote, bloc is not a monolith. So I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how Florida and Arizona are moving in different directions.

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S3: It’s just a great point to make of the difference of our demographic. Arizona is probably 90 percent. Plus, Mexican, and you have such a wide range of Mexicans there, that means of demographics based off of age. So you have, of course, like in any Southwest state, you have Latinos coming of age faster than white people are, faster than anybody. But you just have a cross culture of lots of Latinos there that have lived through some of the most brutal anti-immigration politicians in the history of American politics. Sheriff Joe Arpaio may come to mind for many of you folks at home, Jan Brewer and show me your papers law. All of this stuff was seated in Arizona. Remember the Minutemen back years ago that were patrolling the border looking for immigrants, trying to crawl across the border, in their words, like the beginning of the militia movement? Exactly right. Latinos have lived through this, but now more of them have come of age. And so they’re becoming a bigger part of the demographic. Prior to that, you had a lot of rich white folks who moved out there because the taxes were so low. That’s why that state has always been Republican for so long. But demographically now Latinos have called up and because now they have a reason to vote because of the attacks against them. You’ve just seen this state go from bright, bright red now to solid purple, where they elected a woman statewide as a Democrat last election as the U.S. senator, Kirsten Sinema, who is a wonderful woman, but and she’s no liberal firebrand, let’s be clear. And she ran a great campaign to get moderates in with her. But Latinos is what delivered that for her.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, she did a really interesting campaign where she kept her mouth shut a lot of the time.

S2: And if you’ve met Miss Sinema, that is hard. That’s like Chuck Roach. You’re telling him to be quiet.

S1: Yeah. I mean, you’ve talked you’ve talked about one more state that you have your eye on in a not great way from your perspective, which is Nevada. And I want to talk about that because you have a lot of experience campaigning in Nevada. And I want to talk about why you look at this state and you say Democrats have better be keeping their eye on it.

S2: It’s because mainly around the coronavirus effect, because they’re almost entirely a service sector and tourism economy. And so all of these brown and black folks and immigrants and children of immigrants who work out there are all tied to this industry that is faltering. So you want to go out there and get them to show up to vote and go talk to them about showing up to vote and talk to them about the issues when they’re literally trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their family. And because this huge powerhouse out there, the Culinary Union, is like 80 percent still laid off from all the casinos. They’re not ready to do all the work that they may have done before because they’re having doing so much services to their union as they should be. I just feel like there’s going to be an effect there.

S1: Well, here’s what I don’t get, which is wouldn’t being laid off sitting at home, getting frustrated with the government’s response to the coronavirus, wouldn’t that make you more likely to go out and vote and try to get someone new in the White House?

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S2: And, sister, I think your point is right. But the point I’m making is that we don’t know we don’t know if you’re right. We don’t know if I’m right. But we just know that it’s had an effect on the election would tell us which one of us is right. I just know that in focus groups that we’ve been doing after coronavirus during the summer, there is this undertow of anxiety. And some people react exactly like you’re talking about, like what are they doing? Nobody cares. But it’s also a point that’s bad for Joe Biden because these people know Donald Trump is crazy. But what they want to know is like what qualifies Joe Biden to do anything better than what we’ve already got? And if I come back to them and say, well, Joe Biden has a plan and here is his plan and this is his commitment to our community, and this is what he’s already done, and they’re like, oh, my God, that’s great. We love Joe Biden, but he’s not having enough of those conversations. And in a Korona age, when you can’t knock on their door to tell him that, you need to send that to them in rounds of mail, lots of TV going. My name is Joe Biden. I understand what you’re going through. This is after. I want to help you.

S1: Here’s my plan to help you immediately when I get into office, screw Donald Trump and you can see that machinery cranking up Joe Biden this week, releasing ads that are almost entirely in Spanish scored by bad bunny, you know, making the case that you want to break up with Donald Trump. But is it enough?

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S5: Yeah, I don’t think that it’s everything he should be doing. He should double everything he’s doing just to make sure. And then there needs to be an outside validator game like you do with white voters, these white folks. And I love them to death my mother’s. What I am not anti white folks very clearly here. I’m anti you spending ten times the money on white voters than you do on brown voters. That’s what Chuck Roach’s a.. And let me make my point. These rich people aren’t throwing their money away to go get and persuade white people to go vote, that is smart political strategy. My point is that we could do the same thing with Latinos if we use the same strategy that we’re not doing. And what he needs, he being Joe Biden, is he these outside validators like New Electropac? I announced with my PAC this week that we were sending three million pieces of bilingual mail to all the Latinos that meet that criteria in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida. But all of that wrapped up and all that amazing things that you’re hearing, Chuck Roach has got all this down. He’s doing all this work with the WTO that still just a total of six million dollars as of today of spending when it should be closer to 60 million. If I had spent 60 million dollars over the last six months talking to Latinos, Joe Biden would be winning Latinos in Florida by 80 percent and this election would already be over.

S1: Well, forgive me, a listener might hear this and hear you saying what needs to happen is Joe Biden needs to send me more checks.

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S3: Look, legally, Joe Biden can’t give money. Let’s clear that up with your supporters and people that are listening out there. It’s illegal for Joe Biden to give me any money. Now, Joe Biden supporters and rich people who support Joe Biden should be they should send me a whole bunch of checks. Now, there are other super PACs and other organizations that are doing amazing work. But if I am the largest and I’ve been doing the most work, that’s just six million. Mi Familia Vota Unidos, Voto Latino, Somos PAC, Latino Victory PAC, all of these people I just mentioned, guess what we do. We all sit down on the phone together every Tuesday and we coordinate our activities because nobody’s got enough money to get it done. So we literally all work together. Man may be the biggest and we do a lot of work, but I coordinate every bit of that with the entire Latino community to make sure. All right. Who’s got TV in Florida this week? Who’s doing the mail in Pennsylvania? Is anybody doing digital in Arizona just to make sure we cobble together the little bit of money that we all have to make sure we maximize the reach into our community?

S1: It seems like securing the quote unquote, Latino vote is really complicated because different communities have different ideas of what they want from a candidate. Is there any one thing other than just blitzing the communities with money that you would see the Biden campaign or other PACs doing that? You would think, OK, this feels like the right move. We got this.

S2: Any time you can tie the communication to things that are happening on the ground. So if you use a local issue in a state on a mail piece or radio ad, that’s really important. If you use a local validator, people want to hear from people that they know in their community. You know, everybody knows bad bunny. That’s why that’s a brilliant move by the Biden campaign. But it doesn’t get to everybody.

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S5: So if you can get a local deejay, a local priest, a local racecar driver that’s Latino or local, somebody that somebody knows who’s doing ads to validate you, that’s the way that you actually connect the money seems cheap. It seems like a cheap thrill ride. Money means communication. Don’t think of it as money. Think of it as when I get into my car. I hear the commercial on the radio. When I turn on my phone, I’m getting a Pandora ad. When I go to my mailbox, I’m getting information from the candidate that says where they stand on an issue that matters to me, it’s just having that dialogue because that’s the way we treat all voters. The only difference is Latinos may get one or two or three touches and a persuadable voter that’s in the suburbs will get twenty to thirty five different pieces of mail or radio commercials or TV glimpses. So they become a more informed voter and so they’re more comfortable even showing up.

S1: I was going to ask if you’re feeling anxious, but I feel like that’s just not your style.

S5: Look, I’m always a little anxious because I run a little hot, as my mama would say, and because I run a little hot, I’m always a little bit worried. But I do like I do like the battle. I do like the arena. And I don’t mind going into the arena. And you give me your best and I’m going to give you my best. I’m a highly competitive guy if you can’t already tell that. But what I don’t like is when you make me fight with one arm tied behind my back, when you’ve got two arms and two bats and you’re just beat me around the head and I ain’t even got both uses in my arms because you won’t give me five million dollars and he’s got five hundred million. But I’m supposed to perform at the same level he is. If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to make sure people understand that point because I’m not going to take the blame for Latinos not performing it. What a white person thinks they should because there’s nobody talking to them.

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S3: Chuck, this is so much fun. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for having me. And thank you for covering our community. A lot of times I like to make sure people know that I appreciate people putting a lot on our community. I think it helps everybody.

S4: Democrat, Republican, Independent Chuck Goroka is the head of Nuestro PAC, which is supporting Joe Biden in this election. He’s got a new book out, too. It’s called Tio Bernie The Inside Story of How Bernie Sanders Brought Latinos into the Political Revolution. And that’s the show What Next is produced by Mary Wilson, Jason de Leon, Daniel Hewitt and Elena Schwartz. Alison Benedict and Alicia Montgomery are our fearless leaders. And I’m Mary Harris. If you want to see what I get up to over the weekend, go find me on Twitter. I’m at Mary’s desk. Otherwise I’ll catch you back here on Monday.

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