California Latinos have achieved an unprecedented ability to influence state politics. They turned out to vote in big numbers in last November’s midterm elections, but will they impact the 2020 California Democratic Primary?
If we’re going to analyze the issue then here’s the obvious first question. Who among the top tier Democratic contenders has a natural connection with Latinos? And the answer is, well pretty much nobody, with one exception and we’ll get to that in a moment. Does anybody in the top tier have an instinctive feel for Latino voters? Sanders? Warren? Booker? Gillibrand? All East Coast politicians. Klobuchar? She’s Midwest. Julian Castro? He has a connection, but he’s not top tier. Biden? Come on.
What about Kamala Harris? Well, she definitely wants to make a fight for Latino votes and that’s central to the unfolding drama.
All the candidates who want to play will need to recruit Latino surrogates to represent them. Spanish speaking, Latino stand-ins who can appear on their behalf in person and in ads. There will absolutely be a run on every California Latino of some standing no matter how aged. A run that will border on the comic and make Antonio Brown’s free agency melee look like child’s play.
In this competition for California Latino surrogates Kamala Harris will have the upper hand on her out of state competitors. She has the endorsement and the help of the Golden State’s Governor, Gavin Newsom. So, if you’re a Latino who wants to stay on the good side of the Governor and he asks you to help Kamala . . . well, where do I sign up?
But Biden will have top notch surrogates too. And so will Sanders and Warren. The point is everyone who is going to play on March 3, 2020 in California will need Latino surrogates because not a single one of them has a natural affinity, not to mention Spanish language skills, to actually communicate with California’s Latino voters on their own.
Only one Democratic Presidential contender has the ability to focus Latino votes to the exclusion of other candidates. Only one Democratic Presidential contender has the potential to turn California’s Latino vote into a bloc vote. And that’s Beto O’Rourke.
Kamala Harris recognizes this, sees the peril, and is positioning herself for a decisive showdown with the rival who most threatens her prospects . . . Beto O’Rourke. And so Harris is investing in a smart opening strategic move. She’s conspicuously organizing key Latino supporters and recognized surrogates in Texas, and she’s drawing big crowds, with a message about her strong support for Dreamers.
What’s behind this tactic? Harris wants to cut into O’Rourke’s Latino Texas base while keeping him at bay in California. That game plan will give her the best chance to sweep the majority of the Golden State’s delegates on March 3, 2020 and emerge as a viable top tier finalist for the nomination.
Kamala Harris’ tactic leaves Beto O’Rourke facing his own strategic dilemma. He must hold his own in Texas and stop Kamala Harris from sweeping in California. Only Latino voters can do that for him. No other candidate is so dependent on Latino voters for success.
California’s Latino vote will be without significant impact if it’s scattered and dissipated among several candidates. Only if the Latino vote is focused on one candidate, in a bloc vote, will it change the dynamic of the California primary.
Only Beto O’Rourke has the potential to ignite a surge of Latino political empowerment and excitement that actually turns into bloc votes on Primary Election Day. The fate of Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy may very well ride on it. And Kamala Harris is intent on preventing that from happening.
On March 3, 2020 the drive to turn Latino votes into consolidated Latino power will be tested. The most likely scenario is that Latino votes will be dispersed among a manifold number of candidates.
Still, this political storyline remains compelling. It’s worth watching to see if Beto can hold Texas and prevent Kamala Harris from sweeping California. Because, if he does, it will be in great part thanks to Latino voters coming in a bloc to his side. Or will Kamala prevail and sweep California with the help of influential Latino surrogates. Either way, for Latino voters in California the ramifications will be far reaching.