Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who announced his presidential campaign Monday afternoon, has been touted as one of the few Republicans who can help to increase his party’s paltry Hispanic support.
His credentials are formidable: His wife Columba was born in Mexico and their children are biracial and bilingual. Bush once lived in Venezuela and speaks fluent Spanish. He was born in Texas and served two terms as governor of Florida, two states with substantial Hispanic populations. And he once got so carried away that he listed himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registrations application in Miami-Dade County.
While Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) all have backgrounds that to varying degrees would appeal to some Hispanic voters, they all will be facing a steep climb in overcoming the strong Democratic advantage. Hispanics identify as Democrats over Republicans by as much as 45 percent to 15 percent, according to ABC News. Of those who don't identify with either party, most are Democratic-leaning independents.
The Republicans’ high water mark among Hispanics dates back to 2004, when Bush’s older brother, former President George W. Bush, lost the Hispanic vote to Democratic nominee John F. Kerry by 18 percentage points, 58 percent to 40 percent, although Bush easily carried the general election. President Obama trounced Republican Mitt Romney among Hispanics in the 2012 general election, 71 percent to 27 percent, after the former Massachusetts governor repeatedly called for illegal immigrants to “self-deport” back to Mexico.
Jeb Bush emerged in the early going of the 2016 GOP presidential campaign as not only the frontrunner but arguably the strongest candidate to help his party capture a substantial percentage of Latino voters. However, Bush’s popularity has waned more recently, with Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker surging in the polls.
A new analysis by Matt Barreto and Gary Segura of Latino Decisions, a Hispanic political research and advocacy group, suggests that neither Bush’s broader family history and personal characteristics or political resume will be enough to crack the Democrats’ widespread appeal to Latino voters.
“Latino voters have proven more than willing to reject even actual Latinos as candidates when their policy positions are in contrast to the community preferences,” Barreto and Segura wrote on Monday. “Bush’s marriage and linguistic skills, while symbolically important, would founder if his issue positions are in contrast to the average Latino voter.”
The two analysts claim that Bush’s policy record makes him more conservative than moderate. Latino Decisions cited five significant policy areas whether Latino public opinion sharply differs with policies being advocated by Bush and his campaign.
- Obama’s immigration executive orders. When asked if he would undo the most recent Obama executive orders to allow illegal immigrants and their children protection from deportation, Bush told radio host Michael Medved, “The DACA and the DAPA? Yes I would” and he called the Obama immigration orders “ill-advised.” Unsurprisingly, nearly 90 percent of Latino registered voters said in a November 2014 poll that they supported the president’s executive orders. Moreover, a majority of Hispanic voters disagree with Bush’s views on strengthening security along the U.S.-Mexican border first before addressing legalized status for illegal immigrants.
- Medicaid Expansion and Obamacare. Bush has said he does not support expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act because “expanding Medicaid without reforming it is not going to solve our problems over the long run” and Obamacare is “flawed to its core.” Latinos have one of the lowest rates of health insurance of any group in the country, and an estimated 200,000 Latinos in Bush’s home state of Florida would have gained health insurance through Medicaid expansion if the state’s governor and legislature hadn’t rejected it. In a Nov 2014 poll of Latino voters 77 percent nationwide and 74 percent of Latinos in Florida said they thought states should take federal taxpayer money to expand Medicaid programs.
- Raising the Minimum Wage. Bush has is opposed to the federal government raising the minimum wage. “We need to leave it to the private sector,” he said. “I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. A large share of Latino workers earn the minimum wage. In a Nov 2014 poll of Latino voters, 78 percent said they want to see the federal minimum wage raised to $10.10 per hour, including 80 percent of Latino voters in Florida.
- Climate change. Bush is a skeptic and says that it is not clear that climate change is a man-made phenomenon and that the Environmental Protection Agency is going too far in regulating industrial carbon emissions. By contrast, 82 percent of Latinos in a 2013 national poll said they were somewhat or very concerned that human activity is causing the earth to get warmer. Rather than trying to weaken the EPA, 77 percent of Latinos said they would support the President taking executive action through the EPA to flight climate change.
- Taxes on the wealthy. Bush created a political buzz three years ago by saying he might be open to small revenue increases to address the budget deficit. However, a senior spokesperson made clear in 2014 that Bush does not support any new tax increases. A subsequent story by Forbes Magazine outlining his views on taxes said that while governor of Florida, Bush favored providing tax cuts for retirees and small business owners and “tax relief for rich investors.” He also has boasted of spending cuts and touted his record as Florida Governor in vetoing state budgets for extending the school year, job training and parks. Polling data from Latino Decisions has repeatedly found Latinos oppose additional cuts to government services and instead support new tax increases on the most wealthy as a way to generate more revenue to address the deficit.
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