Latina and Latino Leaders React to CNN Debate

It not's good

Ok, it’s the morning after the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, and it’s safe to conclude the following three takeaways:

  • As expected, Latinos were invisible once again, and CNN (or Joe Biden) did nothing to ensure that Donald Trump’s “uninterrupted xenophobia” went unchallenged.

  • President Biden’s performance was perhaps the worst one by an incumbent president in the history of modern American politics. Democratic voters are worried. Or as one voter told The New York Times, “frightened.”

  • Trump never answered one question directly, recycled the same lies of the past and did not say he would respect the results of the 2024 election. And don’t get me started on “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs.”

We can discuss these three takes (feel free to reply to me on Twitter or Threads to tell me I am wrong), but I wanted to start the day by sharing what some Latina and Latino leaders, journalists, pundits, and political operatives thought about Thursday’s debate.

Janet Murguía, UnidosUS: “Deeply disappointed.”

Paola Ramos, Noticias Telemundo/MSNBC: “This is painful to watch, for many reasons.”

Antonio Arellano, NextGen America: “Young Americans are frustrated. They have every right to be. But we also have the power to defend our rights and build a more representative government.”

Maria Hinojosa, Futuro Media: “I thought I could, but I can’t.”

Mike Madrid, veteran Latino political consultant and author of The Latino Century: “The only thing saving Biden is Trump.”

María Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino: “Trump is a 34-count convicted felon.”

Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times columnist: “Trump’s naked xenophobia.”

Daniel Garza, Libre Initiative: “[Biden’s] doing much worse than I thought he would.”

Matt Barreto, Political Scientist and Former Biden Pollster: “Latinos were watching and listening and Trump sounded like a crazy liar.”

There is no doubt that the next few days will be critical to the early days of this election.

But we can’t deny the fact that Latinos will be a key part of this election. As my good friend and newsroom leader Susanne Ramirez de Arellano wrote Thursday night for CNN:

Biden had a chance to outline a plan that balanced security with a humanitarian resolution of the border crisis. But he didn’t. Instead, he went on the defensive and countered by describing how he had raised the legal standard for asylum claims and cut access to asylum for those crossing the border illegally when arrests topped 2,500 a day, yet said nothing about immigration reform. Nothing.

How this will affect the country’s 36.2 million eligible Latino voters, who are increasingly split on immigration issues, remains to be seen. However, Biden needs the Latino vote to win reelection. A report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative found that in 2020, Latino voters were vital in Biden’s presidential victory. In 2024, more than one of every 10 voters is expected to be Latino, meaning the Latino voting bloc will again be crucial next November. It’s the Latinization of America.

Tonight, neither Biden nor Trump acknowledged that, nor did us justice.


My Latest Opinion for MSNBC

Copa América and Biden: A few hours before the start of the debate, MSNBC published my latest opinion piece. I focused on the Copa América tournament and how the Biden campaign is using it to try and improve support with Latino men. I am guessing that after Thursday night, the campaign might have more than soccer tournaments on its mind now. (Story here)

Have a great weekend.

Julio Ricardo Varela is the founder of The Latino Newsletter.

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