Republicans See Glimmer of Hope With Latinos Despite Newsom Win

Gavin Newsom won the recall election to remove him in convincing fashion, but both parties had positive takeaways both in California and nationally from the unusual off-year election fight.

Newsom stopped the recall in its tracks, with 64% of voters backing "no" on the recall and only 34% voting "yes," with 71% of the vote tallied.

Latino voters tuned into the election late and initially returned their ballots slowly. This was a cause of concern for Democrats in August, but they surged to back Newsom late as voters paid more attention to the recall election and the campaign poured $6 million into its Latino budget.

Exit polls show Newsom was backed by 60% of Latinos, compared to 40% for Republicans.

But a deeper look at the results among Latino voters did provide a glimmer of hope for California Republicans, those who spoke to Newsweek said.

"Gavin Newsom under-performed Joe Biden's share of the Latino vote by 15 points in his own state — and that was with virtually no outreach by the local GOP," Giancarlo Sopo, who led the Trump campaign's Hispanic advertising, told Newsweek. "Imagine what we could do with minimal effort."

Sopo was comparing exit polls, with the California exit poll of the 2020 presidential election showing Biden with 75% Latino support compared to Trump's 23% in the deep-blue state.

He also said ads were left unwritten against Newsom, including using the Mexican term "un mirrey" against Newsom, which refers to a celebrity lifestyle of excess and consumerism, pointing to the governor's much-maligned trip to The French Laundry, a glitzy Napa restaurant, during the heart of the pandemic.

"I mean, the Spanish ads against Newsom wrote themselves, but no one bothered to make them. He's the textbook definition of 'un mirrey,'" he said. "The fact that no one in the entire California GOP establishment pointed this out should make Republicans wonder how much we're leaving on the table by not engaging blue state Hispanics with culturally sophisticated outreach. As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Bryan Lanza, who also worked for the Trump campaign in 2016, said Newsom didn't win the recall because he said his stewardship of California was amazing, but because he "scared" voters over what Republicans would do, which isn't difficult to pull off in a very Democratic state. But he also sees hope in California for Republicans with Latinos in the future,

"What you see in four years in California is the Latino vote moving towards the Republican column more and more," Lanza said, before pointing to the California stimulus Newsom approved. "He gave them cash and he still lost support. The enduring question is what match did Trump light that the party can use to continue to grow more of this Latino vote."

Democrats, of course, argue the specter of Trumpism from Larry Elder is what drove out voters to overwhelmingly rebuke the recall effort, and Newsom's position in the polls did stabilize once he made the election more about coronavirus guidelines he said Republicans would gut.

They also gave the campaign credit for its push in the final weeks on Latino engagement that led to a surge of Latino voters once in-person voting began last week. The campaign received help from grassroots groups that saw drawbacks to Newsom's leadership but viewed Republicans as wrong for California.

Michael Trujillo, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist, told Newsweek the campaign deserves to celebrate its win, but Democrats nationally may want to take note of exit poll results that show Newsom's support from Latino men at only 55% to 45%, compared to Latinas who backed Newsom at 64%.

As there was during the 2020 presidential election, there is concern that support from Latino men is eroding in the Democratic party.

"Democrats nationally, locally, and regionally, we need to not ignore this," Trujillo said.

He allowed that the current confluence of events includes having to do door knocking and persuasion of voters during an unprecedented pandemic, which limits the in-person politicking that works well with Latino voters in their homes and neighborhoods.

But while county-level results show Newsom doing better with Latinos than the exit poll in some areas, he pointed to heavily-Latino Imperial County in the southeastern corner of state along the Mexican border, where 80% of residents are Hispanic, as worrisome.

In Imperial County, "yes" on the recall was outpacing the statewide figure 38.7% to 34%, evidence that even California Latinos can cool on Democrats.

"Everyone looked at Texas in 2020 and said, 'Well, that's a conservative state,'" Trujillo said of Republican improvement with Hispanics in the Lone Star State. "But it's not just Texas, it's happening in the most Latino county in the state of California."

Gavin Newsom Appears with President Joe Biden
California Governor Gavin Newsom (L) greets US President Joe Biden during a campaign event at Long Beach City Collage in Long Beach, California on September 13, 2021. Newsom's odds of one day becoming president stand at 20/1. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images