Governor Brian Sandoval’s Achilles Heel

brian sandovalNevada governor Brian Sandoval is arguably one of the strongest Republican vice presidential picks for 2012. Unlike Senator Marco Rubio, Gov. Sandoval is not dogged by financial controversies.  And unlike New Mexico governor, Susana Martinez, Sandoval is not as polarizing a leader. However, there is one weakness Sandoval cannot escape: His lack of popularity among Latino voters.

A presidential running mate is ideally meant to do three things

  • help the presidential nominee in appealing to the general electorate
  • secure the swing state they are from
  • provide the ticket regional balance

Sandoval checks off all three boxes.  While Gov. Martinez and Senator Rubio can also check off box two and three. the first box is a far miss.  Both of these individuals ran in 2010 on a Tea Party platform and threw their lot in with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party.

Brian Sandoval did not run on a Tea Party platform and has a history of appeal outside of the GOP base.  In his successful run for Nevada Attorney General in 2002 his moderate stances and track record garnered him the endorsement of one of the largest and strongest unions in Nevada, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.

In addition to the three boxes above, a Latino vice presidential pick would be expected to provide additional Latino votes to the GOP.

victoria defranceso soto

The Republican Party’s recent turn to anti-immigrant rhetoric has erased the inroads the party made with the Latino electorate during the George W. Bush administration.

Though non-Cuban Latinos overwhelmingly identify as Democrats or Independent leaning Democrats, Latino voters will cross party lines.  My research, together with that of Matt Barreto, Sylvia Manzano, Dario Moreno, and others have indicated that under certain circumstances Latino Democrats and Latino Republicans alike will cross party lines to vote for a fellow Latino candidate.

Marco Rubio and Susana Martinez garnered sizeable percentages of their state’s respective Latino populations.  Marco Rubio received 62% of the Florida Latino vote. However what is interesting is that he garnered 40% of the non-Cuban Latino vote, a group that is not as staunchly Republican as Cuban-Americans.

In the Southwest Latinos are largely of Mexican descent and identify with the GOP by less than 20%.  However in New Mexico Susana Martinez came away with close to 40% of the Latino vote.  In Nevada, Brain Sandoval only captured 15% of the Latino vote.

victoria defrancesco sotoGoing into the 2012 general election the Republican Party faces a dilemma with its potential Latino vice presidential picks.  On the one hand, Rubio and Martinez can rally the base and draw some Latino support but they will not play well among independents and moderate Democrats.

On the other hand, Sandoval has a proven track record of garnering support outside of his party but not within the Latino community. Sandoval would otherwise be an ideal running mate.  But the fact that the first Latino ever on a presidential ticket would likely not bring an influx of Latinos to the GOP ticket makes for quite the Achilles heel.

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. VMDS 
About Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and a Faculty Fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2007 during which time she was a National Science Foundation Fellow. DeFrancesco Soto was recently named one of the top 12 scholars in the country by Diverse magazine.

Victoria’s research analyzes how human thought and emotion shapes political behavior. Her academic work focuses on: campaigns and elections, political marketing, race and ethnic politics, and immigration. Her academic research has been widely published in scholarly journals and edited volumes. In 2008, Dr. DeFrancesco Soto was Northwestern University’s principal investigator for the Big Ten Battleground Poll, a public opinion survey of voters for the 2008 Presidential election. She is currently working on a book manuscript that analyzes the emergence of conservative feminism.

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