Democratic presidential candidates are vying for Latino support. Photo: Bloomberg, Getty Images.

In a presidential democratic race now absent of Latinos candidates, leading candidates are crafting messages that resonate with Latino voters at the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, the first nominating contest of the 2020 election cycle. While some candidates have garnered support and endorsements from prominent Hispanic groups, others have fallen short.

Over 53,000 Latinos are estimated to be registered to vote in the Iowa Caucus. The four leading Democratic hopefuls (Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg) are hoping to capitalize on the small, but important 6.2% of Latinos to support them in the Hawkeye state. Nationwide, over 32 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in the general election, making Latinos the largest minority voting bloc. 

Sen. Warren has been making significant inroads with the Latino community. She’s  garnered over 100 endorsements from key Latinos around the country, including Julián Castro’s, who gave the Massachusetts senator his support after his own presidential bid dissolved. “I am grateful for the support of this list of Latina, Latino, and Latinx leaders who have made incomparable gains for their communities and continue to trailblaze for the good of everyone,” Warren told NBC.  

Former Vice President Biden, the Democratic frontrunner and a longstanding party darling, has found himself in cringeworthy situations when facing issues important to Latinos. At a November town hall in South Carolina, Biden was confronted by an immigration advocate who pressed him for an answer on whether or not he would use executive orders to stop deportations. 

Biden, who became visibly agitated by the insistent questioning, responded that the man should just “vote for Trump.” Another example is the November exit of Biden’s top Latina adviser, Vanessa Cardenas, who resigned from his campaign and cited the candidate’s inefficiency in connecting with the Latino community.

Sen. Sanders has surged to the top of the pack in multiple Iowa-focused polls. Many Latinos are embracing the Vermont senator’s pro-worker message and immigration advocacy groups are taking note. One such group is Make the Road Action, which endorsed Sen. Sanders, endorsing a presidential candidate for the first time. “We can and must fight for a country where members of our communities are free to stay, free to move, and free to thrive,” Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road Action, said. “And we are proud to fight alongside Bernie Sanders to realize that vision.”

Another candidate surging in the Iowa polls is former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg. Although the candidate from Indiana has seen his star rise nationally, he has not been effective in connecting with Latinos. Despite releasing his  “El Pueblo Unido” plan, focused on developing economic and educational opportunities for Latinos, some say they simply don’t know the candidate. “I don’t know who is working for him, who is supporting him, or where they exist in our ecosystem,” Laura Martin, executive director of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said.
The 2018 midterm elections saw 11.7 million Latinos cast crucial votes, and analysts believe their high turnout will be a game changing factor that carries into the 2020 presidential contest. “You are starting to see this group now assert itself in elections at the local and national level,” Fernand Amandi, Democratic pollster at Bendixen & Amandi, said. “2018 was historic turnout and I think you will see historic turnout again in 2020,” Amandi added.

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Herbert Norat (he/him/his) is a contributing writer for Pulso. A Bronx-born writer of Puerto Rican and Nicaraguan descent, he owns a small business, works as a library researcher, and writes for Bronx Narratives and The New York Public Library. Herbert lives with his fiance and daughter in the Bronx.