Hispanic Republicans take center stage as Democrat gaffes continue

Polling shows historic shift among Hispanics toward GOP.

Updated: July 16, 2022 - 11:47pm

As prominent Democrats are making high-profile and untimely gaffes alienating segments of the Hispanic-American community, potential rising Republican stars of Hispanic descent are claiming the political spotlight heading into the midterm elections.

This juxtaposition of Democratic flubs and Republican gains comes as polling indicates Hispanic voters disapprove of Democrat leadership and could be shifting toward the GOP in a major way.

Perhaps the strongest embodiment of this dynamic has been newly minted Republican Rep. Mayra Flores, who made history last month by becoming the first Mexican-born woman elected to Congress. She defeated her Democratic opponent in the special election for Texas' 34th Congressional District.

Until Flores, a Republican hadn't represented the heavily Hispanic area along the nation's southern border in the Rio Grande Valley since 1870.

Flores on Thursday took a shot at First Lady Jill Biden, tweeting a meme showing how "taco inflation" during the Biden administration was hitting the American people's wallets.

"Tacos inflation — tacos are unique. Ingredients may vary," said the image, which included facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing by how much the prices of taco ingredients have increased.

The meme came after Biden apologized for comments she made earlier this week during a speech in front of Hispanic advocacy groups.

"Raul [Yzaguirre] helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community — as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio — is your strength," said Biden.

When invoking the Bronx bodegas, she mispronounced the word for the small grocery stores as "bogedas."

Biden received widespread backlash for the gaffe, which critics described as a failed attempt at pandering and another example of Democrats being "out of touch" with Hispanics.

A more recent example came on Wednesday, when Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego accused Tanya Contreras Wheeless, a Hispanic woman running for Congress in Arizona's Fourth District as a Republican, of not being authentically Latina because she took her husband's last name.

"In the years I have known of you in Arizona it wasn't until you ran for office that you added Contreras," tweeted Gallego. "Glad you are proud Latina now hope it will stay after you lose. FYI... google Tanya Wheelers see how often Contreras comes up prior to her running."

Gallego then suggested Wheeless intentionally "hid" her Hispanic identity before running for office to avoid discrimination.

"If you were Latino in Arizona around 2010 people were telling us to go back to Mexico," he wrote. "You would hear I am not voting for a 'spic' ... We took the arrows for her."

"Tanya is Latina, cuando le conviene" (meaning "when it suits her"), Gallego added.

Wheeless responded in a statement, lamenting how common such attacks have become and describing them as "sexist and racist." She also noted "many women change their name when they get married, but that doesn't change who they are or where they came from."

Beyond Wheeless, other Latina candidates are making headlines for speaking out and being Republican.

Two — Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia — are, like Flores, in districts along the southern border. The other, Yesli Vega, is the Republican nominee in Virginia's Seventh District.

A sign of their success is the number of attacks they've received from Democrats and journalists from mainstream outlets. CNN, for example, published an op-ed by an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors saying the conservative Hispanic women running for Congress were "not the 'real deal.'" The New York Times, meanwhile, ran a story referring to the "rise of the far-right Latina."

However, polling has indicated conservative and Republican views aren't considered extreme by many Hispanics.

Indeed, only 41% of Hispanics said they intended to vote for Democrats in November's midterm elections, while 38% said they preferred GOP candidates, according to a New York Times/Siena College survey released this week.

In April, a Marist poll showed 52% support for the GOP among Hispanics, and just 39% support for Democrats.

The National Republican Congressional Committee's Battleground Survey Project found that Republicans have made substantial gains among Hispanic voters since the 2020 elections, narrowing the gap by almost 20 percentage points.

Other polling has shown Hispanics evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, a seismic shift from what was once a lopsided balance in favor of Democrats.

Even polling finding a less dramatic shift still shows Hispanics are now migrating across party lines to the GOP.

One reason for this shift seems to be President Joe Biden.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University last month found that just 24% of Hispanic voters approved of Biden's job performance. That followed another Quinnipiac survey from the prior month that found only 26% of Hispanics approved of Biden's performance, while 60% disapproved and 13% said they didn't know or had no opinion.

Biden's approval rating among Hispanics has been below the mid-30s for several months now, according to polling, which has shown they view Biden's handling of immigration and the economy unfavorably.

Jill Biden's speech was meant to combat this shift. So too is an effort by a liberal group bankrolled by Democratic megadonor George Soros to buy 18 Spanish language radio stations across 10 different markets.

This may not help, however, because a key driving factor of this shift toward the GOP is an aversion to the Democratic Party's embrace of far-left ideology, according to Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Gonzalez.

"A reason progressives dismiss what is taking place is probably that they know that their extreme and irrational ideology is the force driving a political realignment that may rival that which took place in the 1850s, which gave us the Republican and Democratic parties," wrote Gonzalez.

One example where a clash of values has been evident is with the term "Latinx," an attempt by left-wing progressives to refer to Latinos with gender-neutral terminology. Polling shows most Hispanics and Latinos don't like to be called Latinx and a significant number are "offended" by the term.

"It couldn't be a starker contrast between Republicans and Democrats as we engage and do outreach to minority voters, and specifically the Hispanic community," GOP Communications Director Danielle Alvarez told the Hill.

Hispanic Democrats in Congress outnumber Republicans four to one, but the National Republican Congressional Committee says it has recruited a total of 102 Hispanic candidates in this cycle.

The GOP is hoping a decent number of those recruits will join Flores on Capitol Hill following the midterm elections in November — especially if Democrats continue to have highly publicized gaffes and attack Hispanic Republican women.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, an organization comprised of dozens of Democratic lawmakers of Hispanic descent, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.