How Dems' plans to play Hispanic card crashed and burned in New Mexico

A devastating blow has been dealt to Democrats’ plans to capitalize on the growing Hispanic population of the United States, playing on immigration concerns to create a solid voting bloc even larger than that of African-Americans.  From an altitude of 30,000 feet, ethnic politics seem so simple and basic, but on the ground, in places like New Mexico’s Second Congressional District along the southern border, things get a bit more complicated.

When national Democrats surveyed the country for vulnerable GOP House seats to pour money into to pick up, incumbent Steve Pearce’s seat in the Second District, with a majority of registered Democrats and a large and growing Hispanic population, seemed an obvious choice.  An attractive, female, Hispanic candidate, Roxanne (“Rocky”) Lara, a lawyer and the first Hispanic president of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, seemed ideal. Michael Coleman of the Albuquerque Journal (hat tip: Instapundit) writes an excellent analysis of how those plans crashed and burned, yielding a stunning 30-point margin of victory for the white guy, 65% to 35%.

The conservative Hobbs Republican not only defeated Lara, a Carlsbad lawyer and former Eddy County commissioner, but he, percentage-wise, racked up the most commanding election victory in the state – and of his congressional career. Pearce won every county in the 2nd Congressional District, even outpacing Lara in heavily Democratic Doña Ana County. (snip)

As far as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was concerned, the general election in New Mexico’s 2nd District wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

The House Democrats’ Washington-based political arm viewed Pearce as vulnerable in a district with a large Hispanic population where Democrats outnumber Republicans.

Excited to have a politically moderate Hispanic woman from conservative eastern New Mexico on the ballot, the DCCC got active early in the 2nd District general election campaign. It assigned staffers in Washington to help Lara craft her message and communicate with the media.

Perhaps more importantly, the DCCC helped Lara raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors across the nation. In the end, none of it worked.

The national Democrats turn out to be a drag, even on moderate Democrats:

Popular Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, a self-described conservative Democrat, said national messaging strategies adopted by the DCCC that have included environmental and socially liberal voter appeals don’t play well in much of southern New Mexico.

But, to be clear, Lara largely steered clear of those issues, focusing on job growth, immigration reform, education and other middle-of-the-road subjects.

Miyagishima, who is of half Japanese and half Mexican descent, said the Democrats’ national environmental appeals tend to backfire in a district in which many depend on oil and gas to put food on the table. Socially liberal appeals – vocal support for gay marriage, for example – don’t play well among conservative Hispanics, he said. The mayor also said he has considered a run for the 2nd Congressional District seat himself and wouldn’t rule out a run in the future.

“They (the DCCC) have their own ways of doing things and they think they know how to run campaigns,” Miyagishima said. “The DCCC doesn’t know how to run campaigns here. They think what works in Oregon or somewhere else is going to work in New Mexico, and it’s not.”

For more than a decade, since the publication of John Judis's and Ruy Teixira’s book The Emerging Democratic Majority, the lazy assumption of the Democrats has been that the influx of Hispanics would lead to an automatic victory for them.  But on the ground, Hispanics turn out to be complex people, with the same concerns and interests of other Americans.  It is obvious to me that many Hispanics do not respond well to the idea of amnesty or open borders for the same reason as other Americans.  The Democrats' ideology of racialized politics blinds them to this reality.

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