Latino Republicans are becoming increasingly important across the United States and are likely to be a force to be reckoned with in future elections, according to political experts.
The growth of Latino support for Republican candidates - including in parts of the country far beyond the traditionally Republican Hispanic enclave of South Florida - was starkly highlighted earlier this week by the release of new statistics that showed that Latino support for former President Donald Trump was higher than previously thought.
The statistics, from Equis Labs, showed that while the Trump coalition of Hispanic voters remains considerably smaller in size than the Democratic coalition, the Republicans and Trump gained votes across the country, particularly in Arizona, New Jersey and among non-Cuban Latinos in the Miami area.
In an interview with LPO, political scientist Stephen NuÃ±o-Perez, an associate professor and Chair in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, said that misconceptions about Republican Latinos remain widespread.
"People make assumptions, a lot," he said, adding that "people forget, or ignore" the long history of Latinos in the United States and its traditionally strong relationship with religion.
"There are contours of who Hispanics are, and they are no less impervious to messaging that may touch on these power relationships," he added. "Some Hispanics are also receptive to anti-immigrant sentiments. They've been here as long, or longer, than most Whites have."
NuÃ±o-Perez added that Republican efforts to reach out to the Latino community have proven effective.
Additionally, NuÃ±o-Perez noted that the Republican Party had a strong base among certain segments of the Latino population long before Donald Trump, which are likely to remain strong.
"The Republicans have always had a Hispanic base. That base is much smaller than the Democratic base, but it also makes it easier to reach out to that base, whether it be pockets in Texas or Florida, or industries that heavily draw on Hispanic labor and are perhaps in line with Republicans."
Other Latino political insiders have noted that the Republican Party will have to work hard to overcome the impact Donald Trump had on many Latinos in the United States.
Ahead of the election, for example, political commentator Linda Chavez - a veteran of the Reagan White House - said that "especially on the issue of immigration, Trump is antithetical to what I think is the great American experiment, â€˜E pluribus unum' or â€˜out of many, one'."
Despite her comments, Chavez said at the time that she had no intention of leaving the Republican Party.
"I am not going to let Donald Trump drive me out of the Republican Party," she was quoted as saying by NBC. "Yet there has been such damage to the Republican brand that in the future, there is going to have to be a great effort at mending fences."
Emiliana Guereca, a California-based activist, political commentator and President of Women's March Foundation, said while Trump may have put some Latinos off from voting for the Republicans, the party was also more effective at reaching out to the community.
"He's damaged the brand, but he's also brought in more Latino voters who may stay Republican. We don't know what that will look like," she said. "I was invited to Republican luncheons as a Latina woman. I have yet for a Democrat to reach out."
"Republicans are better at reaching out early, consistently, and making Latinos feel counted," Guereca added.
Guereca added that more broadly, "politicians did not pay enough attention to the Latino block."
"We were the largest voting bloc, but we weren't being courted," she said. "The Latino vote is the sleeping giant. If we can get the Democrats to harness that power, we are unstoppable. But it really takes effort."
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