Andres Oppenheimer

The Hispanic vote has been a sleeping giant, but there are signs that it will wake up in 2020 | Opinion

An old joke among U.S. pollsters is that the Latino vote is a sleeping giant, and will always be. But there are signs that we may see a Hispanic voting surge that could spell trouble for President Trump’s re-election chances in the 2020 elections.

A poll released hours before Thursday’s Democratic debate in Houston showed that Democrats would win Texas, a state that has voted Republican for nearly four decades, if the election were held today. And much of that could be due to the Hispanic vote.

Forty seven percent of Texas’ registered voters say they plan to vote or are leaning to vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination, while 42 percent say they are likely to support President Trump, the Univision News poll says.

Among Hispanics, who represent about 40 percent of Texas’ population and 24 percent of the state’s registered voters, 69 percent say they will vote Democrat.

The big question, of course, is whether Hispanics will turn out to vote, or whether they’ll stay at home like they have done so many times in the past. Despite being the largest minority in the country, Latinos have traditionally voted in fewer numbers than white or African-American voters.

Among the signs that things may change in 2020 are the 2018 mid-term elections, in which Latinos turned out to vote in record numbers, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Latino voter turnout nationwide reached a record 40 percent in 2018, the Pew study says. The number of Latino voters nearly doubled from 6.8 million in the 2014 legislative elections to 11.7 million in the 2018 mid-terms. This trend is expected to continue in the 2020 elections, pollsters say.

“I can guarantee you that the Latino vote will reach historic proportions in 2020,” says Fernand Amandi, head of the Bendixen and Amandi polling firm and Democratic political adviser.

He cited the continued growth of the Hispanic population, and the growing resentment against Trump’s anti-immigration campaign among Latinos. “This coming election won’t be about the Democratic candidate, but about Trump, the most anti-Latino president in U.S. history,” Amandi said.

In addition, whoever is the Democratic nominee, he or she is unlikely to neglect the Hispanic vote, or take it for granted, like Hillary Clinton did in 2016, pollsters say. Like many of us in the media can attest, Clinton did far less to reach out to Hispanics than former President Obama.

The consensus among pollsters is that the 2020 elections will depend largely on the outcome of the vote in a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona, and perhaps even Georgia and Texas.

In his new book “RIP GOP,” well-known Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who was the pollster for Bill Clinton, foresees a “blue wave” in 2020. In an interview, he told me that the Hispanic vote is likely to be critical in that outcome alongside that of millenials, single women, suburban and black voters.

Interestingly, Greenberg says we may see a national phenomenon akin to what we saw in California in the 1990s. California had long been a solid Republican state, until Republicans started pushing for Resolution 187, which sought to make life impossible for Mexican immigrants. That created a huge counter-reaction, which turned the state Democrat.

A similar trend may lead to a nationwide “blue wave” in 2020, Greenberg says. “Voters have become more pro-immigration as Trump has become more virulent in his attacks on immigrants,” he told me.

Granted, pollsters were wrong in 2016 - they rightly predicted Democrats would win the popular vote, but failed to forecast that they would lose the electoral college. And there are several things that could help Trump be re-elected, such as a robust U.S. economy by election time, or a socialist Democratic candidate such as Bernie Sanders. If either of these two things happen, I think Trump has a good chance of winning.

But there are growing doubts on whether the economy will keep growing at its recent pace, and it’s hard to imagine that Democrats will be so stupid as to pick Sanders as their nominee. So I’m not as convinced as I was that Trump will win. Maybe the pollsters will be right this time.

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Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

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