Eduardo Gamarra is a renowned Latino consultant who was born in Bolivia and has lived in the United States for many years. He is affiliated with Florida International University since 1986. Nowadays, he is a full professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University, and there he directs the Latino Public Opinion Forum. Gamarra leads Integrated Communications and Research, a consulting firm focused on electoral campaigns and public policies throughout Latin America. He spoke more than once in the United State Congress on these issues. In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, he spoke about Joe Biden's government, the immigration policy of the Democrats, the prominence of Ron DeSantis in national politics and the electoral dispute in which the toughest Republican candidates, identified with Donald Trump, win the primaries but are in trouble to win the general election.
In the last months, the polls have shown a recovery of Biden. What is the importance you give to this?
I think it is a bit premature yet. For example this week with the Central Bank raising rates to try to control inflation. This has an impact on the retirement funds of the middle class, which has lost a huge amount of money in the Stock Market, and those are their withdrawals. Many people who were about to retire cannot do it now. This is truly dramatic for the middle class, which is precisely the voter that President Biden is targeting, and this makes that electorate captive of a Republican Party that has decided - as a campaign - to put inflation first, crime in second place and migration in third. Inflation and economics are seen as the result of immigrants who are coming and displacing American employees, which is false. Biden will have a serious problem if we enter a recession and there the definition of each group is very important: for the Republicans, recession has to do with the drop in activity, and Democrats tie the issue of recession to the issue of employment and they see that we are in a full-employment economy. We have no employees, nor manpower.
Why do you say so?
There is a structural problem with the American economy which very few people recognize: it is a highly aging population. It is the society of the Baby Boom and has had negative growth rates. So, what this country needs is young workers, and in that sense, Latin America could solve the problem through migration, not worsening it. That is the contradiction. But electorally it works: many people say that it is the immigrants who are stealing our jobs. And as everywhere, most of the jobs migrants do have nothing to do with what the native working mass wants to do.
The migration issue is also related to crime and insecurity in the campaign. If you listen to Fox, you'll see that those are the two issues that they give enormous emphasis to: crime and inflation, and it is immigrant's fault.
If young workers are needed in an aging society, why is there no clear message about the benefits of migration from the ruling class and political parties?
It is a very good question. If Democrats adopt that message... that is a message does not work in the mind of the average American. The Democratic Party has been deporting people. It is deporting people to Venezuela, Haiti and Cuba. The deportations have not stopped. If you go to the border, it is not open. There is nothing more false than the idea of an open border. What happens is that there is such a large number of people arriving...
According to official data, more than 2 million people have been arrested at the border so far this year.
Exactly. Unfortunately, this has to do with the profound crisis that Latin America and much of the world are experiencing. Today most of them are Venezuelans and Cubans, two communist countries withing the North American perspective. The irony is worth it: the Republicans accuse the Democrats of being socialists and do not want to welcome immigrants from those countries.
Abbott and DeSantis, who are sending migrants to Democratic states, blame Biden and Kamala for opening the border and bad immigration policy. What is the impact of this campaign?
Republican governors of border states say they are single-handedly paying the cost of immigration. It is not true, because the costs are federal. Of course there is an impact on the states at a local level, and that has been cleverly managed by Abbott and DeSantis. Both are campaigning for re-election in their states and they are both potential candidates for the presidency. We must not lose sight of that. DeSantis spends the week traveling around the United States. He thinks that he has already won the electoral campaign in Florida and that Charlie Crist is not going to beat him. So, one day he is in Michigan and the other in Texas. He moves as a presidential candidate, not as a candidate for governor. They are based on this idea that the American people are tired of immigrants, inflation and criminality. People always think that immigrants and poor people are a big threat to the middle class and the rich. But statistics show that crime is generally poor people against poor people, immigrants against immigrants, and not against the wealthiest population.
What is DeSantis considering to dispute the Republican leadership with Trump?
Two considerations. Before the Mar A Lago raid, Trump was falling significantly in internal polls and DeSantis was growing. The great paradox is that the raid has brought Trump campaign back to life. It victimizes him and makes him rise in the polls. DeSantis has learned a lot from Trump and this is why he takes a chance with this thing of the Venezuelans sent to Massachusetts. These weeks everyone is talking about DeSantis. Was it illegal? Probably. Inhuman? Sure. But everyone is talking about DeSantis and that is what he wanted. He had low recognition in some states, but now there is no place in the United States where DeSantis is not known. However, DeSantis still has an obstacle here in Florida, he has to win this election.
Are you saying it is not won yet?
Democrats are convinced that the Court's decision against abortion will help them. 70% of the population is in favor of the right to abortion. Here in Florida, candidate Charlie Crist is campaigning on that basis.
Could that election be competitive?
The polls now show that they have come very close. They are just 6 points apart. Given the tremendous power DeSantis has, we would expect Crist to be way behind in the polls but he isn't. Most analysts still think that DeSantis will win the race, but it seems that the issue of abortion does have a significant impact on women and independents. Will it be enough in a state with 320,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats? It will depend a lot on participation. If the Republicans turn out to vote, it will be very difficult for the Democrats. Only in 11 of the 67 counties Democrats are ahead.
There are two or three contests that are important. One is DeSantis'. Another is that of Marco Rubio, and he is very close in the polls to Val Demings, the former mayor of Orlando, former chief of police, a very cultured African descent woman. For me, she is a good politician and could be a threat to Rubio. Finally, there is that of Mar√≠a Elvira Salazar against a Colombian-American Annette Tadeo for the House of Representatives. Republicans have a huge advantage and to break the Republican monopoly in Florida will be very difficult.
Until Mar A Lago, DeSantis had been moving up the square in his dispute with Trump and had won the backing of many Trump donors.
DeSantis has managed to raise a lot because he represents Trumpism without Trump. This move regarding migrants is Trumpism without Trump.
How is he different from Trump?
That is a good question. He was part of the Armed Forces, he does have a deserved college degree and he is no fool. But in everything else the rhetoric is very Trumpist. People see him as a smart, young Trump. They have the idea that he has been a good governor in Florida, something which what I disagree.
Democrats bet on abortion and student loan forgiveness; Republicans bet on inflation and the border. What is that that can define the Latino vote in this election?
It is difficult to talk about Latinos because we are so many and so different. The economic issue is very important for Latinos, and the abortion issue is not so important. There is no single nationality that dominates, although here in Florida the Cuban vote is extraordinarily Republican, probably reaching 60%. In order of importance, the Colombian vote, the Puerto Rican vote, which is fundamentally Democratic, in a proportion similar to that of Cubans for the Republicans. Here the Latino vote is not going to be solid because they are going to see those different expressions.
Can you explain it in detail?
The Cuban vote is a 70% and the Puerto Rican, 47%. That makes a big difference. In the rest of the country, the vote continues to be particularly Democratic, because it is a Mexican vote, a Puerto Rican vote, a Central American vote that is growing. As for Venezuelans, I think that DeSantis was encouraged to do what he did because the Venezuelans vote is very small. My calculation tells me that there are 72,000 Venezuelans in Florida, i.e. the highest concentration of Venezuelans. So, I do not see that vote as something that important, and that is why DeSantis takes a risk. He offends Venezuelans, but not Cubans. Understanding that is important.
Sometimes there is solidarity among Latinos. When they chase us as they are doing now with Venezuelans, we see solidarity. The Puerto Rican who is an American citizen is interested in the immigration issue, although he does not have an immigration problem. He sees it as part of the discrimination. The Latino vote is complex, I have studied it a lot and the polls show these ambiguities. Republicans say Latinos are fast becoming Republicans, and that is no as true as they say. My surveys do not reflect it. We must be careful. When you watch Fox, you can see that kind of propaganda, but it is not really as they say.
Trump's toughest candidates won the primaries in most cases, but are weak in many cases to run for the general election.
Yes, and that was largely Democratic strategy as well. Even in some cases like here in Florida, the political committees financed the campaigns of the toughest Republicans precisely with that in mind, that later they will not be able to win because of the radical positions they have assumed.
It is a key issue and it is legal in the United States.
It is legal, unfortunately it is legal. There are a lot of questions about financing.
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