Analysis: Sanders ran the table with Latinos in Iowa
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won big among Latino voters in this week’s Iowa caucuses, according to previously unreleased data from the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.
In the state’s four Spanish-language caucus sites, Sanders won almost unanimously, obtaining 428 votes against a combined 14 divided between former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
This is the first presidential election in which Iowa Democrats have made Spanish-language satellite caucus sites available.
“All of them [voted for Sanders]. It’s amazing what you do when you go to the community to listen to them and then hire them,” said Sanders senior adviser Chuck Rocha, the architect of the campaign’s Latino strategy.
Among the regular English-language sites, UCLA conducted precinct-by-precinct analysis comparing the state’s 12 majority-Hispanic precincts, as well as those where Hispanics comprise more than 40 percent of the population and those that are at least 35 percent Hispanic.
“We estimate Sanders, just in those majority Latino precinct caucus sites … that he got 14.24 delegates, and Buttigieg probably only got one delegate out of there, so that gives [Sanders] an advantage of 13.26 [state delegate equivalents],” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of the UCLA Latino Politics & Politics Institute.
In terms of raw votes, majority-Latino caucus sites voted 66.5 percent for Sanders, 10.7 percent for Biden, 8.3 percent for Warren, 4.6 percent for Buttigieg, 2.9 percent for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 0.7 percent for Yang.
The raw vote totals for the 32 plurality- and majority-Latino sites were 52.6 percent for Sanders, 14 percent for Buttigieg, 13.5 percent for Biden, 11.2 percent for Warren, 3.4 percent for Yang and 2.2 percent for Klobuchar.
Iowa’s caucus system uses state delegate equivalents (SDEs) to tally up total votes for each candidate, assigning delegates for the Democratic National Convention based on the state delegate equivalent results.
This year’s caucuses were badly marred by delays and voting inconsistencies, with results not released by the Iowa Democratic Party until days after the vote closed.
With 99 percent of all precincts reporting, Buttigieg narrowly beat Sanders 564 to 562 SDEs in what amounts to a statistical tie, with each candidate scoring 11 delegates for the convention.
“There’s a very clear takeaway that Sanders appears to have been very strong with the Latino vote in Iowa, and that Buttigieg, the other candidate coming out, was not,” Barreto said.
Barreto added that Sanders’s Latino strategy in the state was a core factor in making him competitive with Buttigieg, a candidate with closer regional and ideological ties to Iowa.
“[Sanders] could be getting that final bump to be the ‘winner’ from the Latino vote,” Barreto said.
“Just in 32 precincts, because he beat Buttigieg so badly, he’s getting about an 18.6 delegate advantage,” he added.
The Sanders campaign has been touting its Latino outreach for months now, investing heavily in Hispanic voters — once seen as nearly unattainable low-propensity voters — in a bid to expand the voting base.
Rocha said Iowa was “the perfect case study scenario.”
“So you have a small group of Latinos relative to the overall population. You can micro-target them, and then spend money that’s not nearly millions and millions of dollars, to see that it proves the fact that early organizing in Latino community pays dividends beyond expectations” Rocha told The Hill.
Rocha said early investment and a holistic approach — canvassing, TV ads, mailers and hiring within the community — helped turn low-propensity voters into active participants in the complex caucus process.
“The key here is that we prove that going into the Latino community early and investing early in the community and putting organizers on the ground to work in that community are the key to the success,” he said.
Still, Iowa’s Hispanic population is relatively small compared to Nevada’s, the next caucus state on the horizon, where nearly a third of the population is Hispanic.
It’s also much smaller than the Hispanic populations of California and Texas, two Super Tuesday states with enormous delegate loads.
That made the proof-of-concept that Rocha delivered to Sanders all the more important.
“It’s easy to scale TV, it’s easy to scale mail. Now what’s not easy is getting campaigns to give you the budget to scale those mail and TV buys, but the hardest logistical thing to do is be able to cover all the neighborhoods with canvassers and volunteers and organizers,” he said.
Updated on Feb. 8 at 11 a.m.
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