The cavalry of Stetson hat-and-boot-wearing cowboys and cowgirls emerged from Rancho Los Olivos on a recent Saturday afternoon. Dust kicked up by a few dozen horses settled, and Old Glory and Joe Biden campaign flags waved in the warm air.
It was no typical campaign effort — it was a parade down this east Las Vegas neighborhood in an attempt to lasso some Latino votes for the Nov. 3 election.
In a state where Hillary Clinton’s campaign squeaked to victory by 2 points last presidential election, every vote can be crucial, including those from the Latino community.
The Biden and Donald Trump campaigns know this, and both are actively trying to pitch their messages here in English and Spanish.
During the Sept. 26 campaign event, Nevada Assemblyman Edgar Flores walked alongside a procession of horses and vehicles, knocked on doors and passed out pro-Biden pamphlets.
Bass and snare drums from a Mexican band hauled by a pickup truck thundered and snapped to the rhythm of brass instruments as Flores chatted up neighbors in this predominantly Latino community.
According to election simulations conducted by EquisLabs, to win in Nevada, Biden will need to grow the Democrats’ Latino base if the white voter turnout for the party remains as it did in 2016.
EquisLabs is described as a resource for Latino leaders that offers ideas to increase Latino participation.
It identified Nevada as one of a handful of swing states where the Latino vote can tip the scale for Democrats or Republicans.
“Any way you cut it, the path to 270 (the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency) runs through the Latino community,” wrote Stephanie Valencia, co-founder of EquisLabs, in a news release. “Whether it is the Latino bellwethers of Arizona, Nevada and Florida, or the boosts that Latinos can give in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Latinos are a core part of the path to victory this election.”
About half of the more than 60 million Latinos who live in the U.S. are eligible voters this year. That amounts to 13.3% of the electorate, according to Pew Research Center. About 20% of the electorate in Nevada is Hispanic.
According to a New York Times/Siena College poll among Nevada voters conducted this month, Biden leads the race by six points. Nonwhite voters in the state prefer Biden (61%) to Trump (27%).
Nevada Democrats credit the party’s outreach in the Latino community for helping them flip the state blue, with key victories in state and national elections, such as former Sen. Harry Reid’s reelection in 2010, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s election in 2016, and Sen. Jacky Rosen’s in 2018.
In the run-up to the 2018 election, the Latino base in the Democratic Party had grown by 5%.
Democratic outreach efforts have included increasing bilingual training and providing campaign literature in English and Spanish, according to the party. Latino Democrats in the upcoming election are focused on the economy, health care and the COVID-19 pandemic that has shellshocked the nation, killing at least 220,000 since March.
Democratic Latino voter Angelo Robles is also one of the party’s volunteers. The 21-year-old will be casting his first presidential election ballot, but has been involved with the party for years, helping out during the 2016 campaign and the 2018 efforts.
Skills he learned from his high school speech and debate team prepared him to help in a campaign, but Robles has been politically aware since he was a middle-schooler, when his father, a Culinary Union member, would take him to protests. Robles’ grandmother has traveled the Southwest U.S. advocating for environmental policies.
Robles worries about the Trump administration’s immigration policies and how the president has “demonized” Latino efforts to achieve the American dream, he said.
The local “Latinos for Trump” office rests in east Las Vegas. Its office is “exclusively” dedicated to outreach in the Latino community, said Jesus Marquez, an advisory board member of the Trump campaign group.
The Latino vote is “very important,” said Marquez, noting that Trump received 29% of it in 2016.
Last month, the group hosted a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas with the president and local business owners. Latinos for Trump has been visited by campaign personalities such as Eric Trump, the president’s son.
Campaign volunteers have conducted phone banks and have walked neighborhoods on the east side and North Las Vegas, Marquez said. They’ve also visited churches, where they’re vying for the Latino evangelical vote.
The main issues among Latinos the Trump campaign has identified are not dissimilar to those seen by Democrats. Latino voters are worried about homeownership, the economy and the jobs it produced before the U.S. was hammered by a pandemic, Marquez said.
“The recovery is coming,” he said. “And Latinos who are the working class of the United States — especially here in Nevada — are going to benefit from this recovery, and they see Donald Trump as a strong candidate with the economy.”
Marquez, a lifelong Republican who was brought up religious, explained that he doesn’t “like 100% of everything (Trump) says, but I like almost everything he does.”
Marquez laments how some Americans can’t tolerate different opinions.
“They want to tell all Latinos to vote a certain way and (support) a certain party,” he said.
Separating all Latinos in the U.S. as a single voting bloc can complicate projections.
“The Latino electorate is not a monolith, and that is clear as you run through each of these state simulations, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” said Valencia of EquisLabs.