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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Latino Vote

Pili Tobar, Director of Communications, Latino Victory Project
Philadelphia, PA
July 27, 2016

Date: 07/27/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Pili Tobar, Director of Communications at the Latino Victory Project, discusses the impact of the Latino vote in this year's election at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

5:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Good afternoon once again. Welcome back to the Foreign Press Center at the Democratic National Convention. We have our last briefing of the day today, and it will be on the Latino vote. Before we get started, I’m just going to go over our housekeeping notes one more time. Our briefings are streamed live on, and the transcripts will also be posted there. Briefings are on the record and the briefer’s views are their own and do not reflect United States Government policy, and the briefer – she will have her opening remarks, and then for the question and answer portion, please state your name and outlet for the transcript and look out for the microphones – oops – coming from the sides.

So our speaker today on the Latino vote will be Pili Tobar. She most recently has worked for the Democratic National Committee as national director of Hispanic media and western regional media press secretary, and as communications director for Congressman Ruben Gallego from Arizona. She is now with the Latino Victory Team and she has a distinguished career in the field of communications and Hispanic outreach. And with that, I will turn it over to Ms. Tobar.

MS TOBAR: Good afternoon, everyone. How are you all doing? So far so good? Okay. Well, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here with you today. More interested really in what your questions are, but I’ll give a little bit of quick remarks. There’s a lot of questions about the Latino vote this year. People always say the Latinos are the sleeping giant – that our demographics can decide elections but that Latinos and in particular young Latinos don’t really come out to vote. This is a very different election year, and what we’re seeing is that young Latinos understand the risks and understand what’s at stake. So we’re working very hard to make sure that we are explaining not just the risks of Trump but also the reason why Latinos policy-wise need to come out to vote and make sure that their voices are heard.

There are over 55 million Latinos in the United States. This year, some of the estimates are that about 13 million will come out to vote. That is still a very small number based on the large population that we are, and so we are working very hard to make sure that we can increase those. We just released at Latino Victory Fund today a poll – a 12 battleground state poll – that – our goal with this was really to get a little bit more into the details of the policies that Latinos prefer. We’ve heard for many years that Reagan had this saying that Latinos were Republicans, they just didn’t know it. And we’ve been wondering, well, how has that changed, and has it changed overall.

So some of the things that we found today that I thought you guys might find interesting are 64 percent of the Latinos that we polled said that on the issues that are most important to them that they agree with the Democratic Party; 95 percent of Latinos said that they want background checks on guns; 94 percent say that they support equal pay for men – for women. Support for immigration reform is still at an all-time high at 82 percent, and climate change – 80 percent of Latinos believe that Congress should do something to address climate change by supporting clean energy technology and jobs.

So as we can see here, it is a very different Latino electorate than what we saw in the ‘80s, and that changes a little bit of the dynamic and the situation here. So with that, I would say we have many organizations that are working hard to register Latinos – to turn them out, to bring them out to vote – but we’ve also seen an increase in the naturalization rates and the amount of people that are applying for citizenship. So we expect to see a higher number of Latinos come out this year and working very hard for that to be the case.

So with that, I’ll just take any questions that you guys may have.

QUESTION: Hi, Pili. This is Silvia Ayuso from El Pais newspaper.

MS TOBAR: Hi, Silvia.

QUESTION: Hi. I am watching the statistic you – the polls you showed today and I’m a bit surprised that Trump still would get eventually 24 percent of the Latino vote. I mean, it’s – okay, it’s 16 percent certain, which is already a bit – can you explain what these – those Latino voters gave as a reason to lean towards Trump?

MS TOBAR: So one, we’re seeing a difference between the poll we released today and some of the national polls that we’ve seen in the past couple weeks. The reason why that is the case is because this is 12 battleground states. So, for example, you won’t see California in there. You won’t see Texas in there. A lot of states that might skew some of this data are not included in this, so this is definitely a little bit of higher support for Trump than what we’ve seen in others, but that’s the reason why. At the end of the day, when we look at this, we have to take into account Florida, that to a large degree might be skewing some of these results.

But look, the reality is that this is still a much higher number than what we saw even – President Obama was at – what was it? I think it was like 77. So, like, there’s a lot of space here, basically, for Hillary to grow that, and we’re seeing already Latinos move more in that direction. We did another poll last week at the Republican convention that showed that over the course of the week, Latinos actually increased kind of like the margin of support for Hillary over Trump as they heard more from the convention. So I – we have, what, at this point a little bit over a hundred days. There’s more than enough time for that margin to solidify itself.

QUESTION: Hello. It’s Juliano Basile from Valor Economico, Brazilian newspaper.

MS TOBAR: Nice to meet you.

QUESTION: I would like to know, why do you think that more Latinos are going to vote this year? And also, is this because of the Trump (inaudible) the wall with Mexico thing?

MS TOBAR: So I think there’s a couple of different things, right? Yes, the wall and the particular immigration policies that Trump has been mentioning are important. But what we have to take into account is that what Trump has done is unleash an attack against Latinos’ identity. It’s not just a matter of undocumented immigrants or a particular policy, it’s a matter of feeling like this candidate himself is a danger to you, your family, your community, and not knowing what that means if that candidate gets into office. There’s a large percent of Latinos – and I can find the statistic and give it to you later – that actually see Trump as dangerous, some that see him as unable. And so these are just some of the words that they’ve used to describe him, and part of the reason why we think that they’ll come out to vote in larger numbers.

QUESTION: Hi. Rafael Mathus from La Nacion newspaper from Argentina.


QUESTION: Is there any way that Trump can win with a really low margin of the percentage of the Latino vote?

MS TOBAR: The rule of thumb has been that for any candidate to win the White House, you need to get at least 44 percent of the Latino vote, give or take a little bit here or there. What we’re seeing right now is that at the top, which this 12 battleground state poll is probably some of the highest that I’ve seen, he’s at 21 percent. When you take into account the fact that he’s at 21 percent plus the lack of support from the African American community and the statistics from the Asian/Pacific Islander community, it doesn’t make it mathematically possible for him to get to that number and be able to move through.



QUESTION: Are you disappointed because Hillary Clinton didn’t – do you hear me?

MS TOBAR: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Hi. Do you hear me now?

MS TOBAR: Hi. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Hi. Do you feel disappointed because Hillary Clinton finally didn’t choose a Latino VP? Thank you.

MS TOBAR: No problem. We’ve actually been getting that question a lot. Like, look, would we have loved it for Hillary to pick a Latino vice presidential candidate? Of course. We believe that there were many who definitely had the qualifications and the ability to take on that role. However – full disclosure – our organization endorsed Hillary Clinton in December, and we believed that she was going to pick the person that was going to be the best running mate for her. We’re more concerned right now in the policies and the issues that our community wants to see, and if the best person that she believes will help get to that point is Tim Kaine, then we’re completely behind that and in support of the ticket. So we hope that the Latinos that were being considered will continue getting better and better and higher positions so that we can get to that point and break that other glass ceiling, but in this case, if this was her choice and this was the best person for the job as far as she considers it, then we want to make sure that she has the best running made possible for her.


QUESTION: Thank you. It’s just a follow-up, but don’t you think that, taking into account the diversity of the United States, it would have been much more representative to have a candidate – more diverse? And they are two white people and with certain age, so this is not very representative of what the United States is, right?

MS TOBAR: Look, I think that it is true that would’ve been a groundbreaking ticket, right? I mean, we would be, again, breaking the glass ceiling on women and breaking the glass ceiling of Latinos, so of course that would’ve been fantastic to see. But at the end of the day, this is the pick that she made, and we’re completely and totally okay with that. We’re focused on making sure that we can get Latinos at all levels of government – local, state, and federal – so that we can have a healthy and vibrant pipeline of candidates that can continue to fill all of these roles. That didn’t happen this time around, but we have a lot of great leaders and we’re sure that it won’t be long before we are able to have a Latino running made in a Democratic – and also, to be honest, would love to see it in a Republican presidential ticket as well.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Mladen Petkov from the Bulgarian National Radio. I wanted to ask more about the issues – you mentioned some issues that – important to Latino voters.

MS TOBAR: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said gun control and also immigration. What about unemployment? And which candidate do you think at this point gives more hope for people who are unemployed for more Latino voters? Thank you.

MS TOBAR: So with the poll that we made today, our goal was not to ask what is your top-ranking issue or what is the most important issue for you. There have been several polls that have asked that particular question. What we wanted to do was dive a little bit deeper and get where Latinos actually stand on the two party platforms. So what we did was we grabbed the actual language from each party platform and put them side by side and asked which one of these two do you agree with and do you identify with, and that’s how they chose.

So on the issue of unemployment, for example, there wasn’t really a particular platform that went ahead with that, at least in the wording. It’s not necessarily worded the same way. But what I can tell you is that from our perspective, Trump is seen I think by many as somebody that can create jobs, as somebody that because he has money and because he is wealthy could potentially do the same thing for others in our country. The reality is that Mr. Trump has outsourced millions and millions of jobs to other countries. Actually, a large number of the items that are branded Trump were made in other countries. So that doesn’t bode well for him creating more jobs in the United States, number one. And number two, he’s in many labor disputes in situations that affect Latinos and that affect many Americans in the middle class in which he’s refusing to give even a decent wage to some of his workers. We just saw that in Atlanta with the Taj Mahal Trump Hotel. In Las Vegas they just went through something similar, and they’ve been trying to get negotiations. So if we’re talking about creating jobs and creating good-paying jobs, in neither of those situations does Trump actually reach what he’s promising or actually get to creating those things.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TOBAR: Perception – yeah, the perception is wrong. The perception is that he because of his own business experience would, but the reality and when you actually look at what he’s done is the complete opposite.

I would actually encourage any of you that can and want to go – an organization that we work closely with that’s called American Bridge put together what they call the Trump Museum, where they have several artifacts and evidence of a lot of Mr. Trump’s failed business ventures and just different artifacts that were created in other countries and stuff like that. So it’s really interesting, if anything, just to get a sense of what that history is.

QUESTION: Which state do you think that is going to be more important in terms of these elections, considering the Latino voters? Are we talking about Florida because it’s a swing state?

MS TOBAR: I mean, Florida is always a weird state, right. It’s not only important because of the amount of Latinos but because you have very different populations of Latinos. We have a large Cuban population that has normally, historically been mostly Republican but that now we’re seeing a second generation be a lot more progressive and open to other candidates. And then you have a large Puerto Rican population especially in the I-4 corridor who have a completely different situation and a different set of policy priorities that are coming from a very tough economic situation in Puerto Rico and are helping to tilt the state a little bit more progressive than they were under a majority, you could say, Cuban population.

QUESTION: So how can you – again, Mladen Petkov from the Bulgarian National Radio. How can you comment on the fact that traditionally first-generation immigrants tend to vote Republican and the newer generation, like second-generation immigrants, they vote Democrat?

MS TOBAR: And particularly about the Cuban population or in general?

QUESTION: Yes, the Cuban population, because I have experience with when I interview people and their parents are very Republican, they don’t like to hear anything about Obama or ObamaCare --

MS TOBAR: A lot of the --

QUESTION: -- and their kids, on the contrary, they’re very –

MS TOBAR: Yeah. So a lot of the – and look, I don’t have – that’s actually not an area that I have a lot of insight into, but what I can tell you is, in my experience, first-generation Cubans or basically that came sometime in their teens or in their adult years, the policies towards Cuba tend to be a very strong – they tend to feel very strongly about. And so for example, a lot of those people have been completely against us necessarily opening some kind of talks and ties with Cuba, whereas the younger generations who have lived here and would like to be able to see where their parents come from and want to open ties because they want to be able to help the people that are still in Cuba, they just – it’s a little bit of a different perspective. And I don’t think it’s just on Cuba policy. I think it’s just generations are changing so much that it kind of just happens along with time.

Well, thank you all.

MODERATOR: Thank you. That’s it for our briefings today. Please join us again tomorrow for the last day of the convention.

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