Friday, May 24, 2024

Pope Views and GOP Rhetoric Make Courting Latinos a Difficult Task


With Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump employing anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail, many elected Republicans at both the state and federal level who, in large part, owe their seats to Latino voters in Hispanic-heavy states, see next week’s visit by the most progressive Pope in a generation as a threat to the GOP’s efforts to court the Latino vote. Given Pope Francis’ statements on climate change and income inequality – which resonate in the Latino and immigrant communities – the Pope may prove to be a divisive issue to the already-dived GOP camp.

“We need to educate the folks that come here who think they’re Democrats, to understand they are more likely to be Republicans,” said Bertica Cabrera Morris, a prominent Orlando Republican who has worked with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican candidate. “I think the Democratic Party has done a better job than we have.”

Half of U.S. Latinos are Catholics and account for some 40 million of the 51 million American Catholics in all. Polls indicate that Pope Francis is wildly popular among Latinos in the States, further compounding Republicans’ fears that the hugely important voting bloc is slipping farther and farther from the right.

Latinos “don’t see [Pope Francis] as a liberal or conservative, but they see him for what he is: a breath of fresh air,” said Jay Rodriguez, chairman of the Hispanic Republican Organization, an advocacy group.

Indeed, if the Pope represents a breath of fresh air, American conservatism may need to take a progressive step forward.