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Opinion The GOP did fine with Latino voters. But that wasn’t good enough.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks at his election night party in Miami on Nov. 8. (Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Republicans spent the past two years trying to win over Latino voters. They poured money and manpower into on-the-ground outreach. They recruited Latino candidates. And they focused on economics while staying conservative on social issues – a strategy that Donald Trump used to woo millions of new Latino voters in the 2020 election.

The results were middling.

According to exit polls, Republicans retained the progress they made in 2020 without increasing their margin. Ruy Teixeira of the American Enterprise Institute saw slightly better results for the GOP. But regardless of the topline national numbers, the GOP had trouble converting their Latino votes into House and Senate wins.

The clearest examples come from the Southwest.

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In Nevada and New Mexico, Democrats gerrymandered their Latino supporters — spreading them across numerous light-blue districts while packing GOP voters into just one seat. Republicans had hoped to win enough Latino voters to break through this gerrymander and clean up in Biden-leaning seats.

They didn’t.

In statewide races, a similar pattern emerged. Republicans were banking on increased Latino support across the Southwest — but Democrats held the governorship in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas beat Trump’s performance almost everywhere — except for heavily Latino South Texas.

In 2020, Trump’s populist appeals worked well in this region, bringing rural, working-class Latinos into the GOP. But Democrat Beto O’Rourke made gains there, and GOP Rep. Mayra Flores — who took a heavily Latino House district in a June special election — lost her seat.

And, unsurprisingly, deep-blue heavily Latino districts in Southern California didn’t flip. When votes are fully counted, it will be easier to see whether the GOP gained ground in this region — and whether its gains came from Latino voters or nearby voters from other ethnic groups.

Florida was better for the GOP, and the overall picture will become clearer as precinct-level results become available across the country. But so far, it seems as if Republicans will have to wait longer and make more inroads before their investment in the Latino vote leads to increased political power.

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