Jeb Bush’s attempted conquest of the elusive ‘Hispanic vote’ looks to be not only failing but actually backfiring on his campaign effort in Iowa. Earlier in the spring Bush was one of the first candidates to visit the island. He took the opportunity to remind everyone that he knows Spanish, married a Mexican woman, and “knows the immigrant experience.” He also was the first and only Republican candidate to tackle the Puerto Rico issue, saying that, “Puerto Rican citizens, U.S. citizens, ought to have the right to determine whether they want to be a state. I think statehood is the best path.” He also has recently voiced his support for expanding bankruptcy laws to allow the Puerto Rican government to restructure its debt. This was all part of his larger strategy to sail through the primaries by appealing to Hispanic voters and bringing them over to the Republican camp. Ironically though, according to an article by Conservative Intel his support for Puerto Rican statehood is actually driving some Republican voters away from him.
The poll asked whether respondents were more likely or less likely to support Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination due to his support for Puerto Rican statehood as the best path, reported in The Guardian. Respondents had a generally negative reaction to that position: 46% were less likely to support him, while 27% were more likely. A plurality – 28% – was somewhat less likely and 23% said it made no difference, the most common two responses, showing that Bush’s position is certainly not popular, though not necessarily toxic.
And add in his call to expand state bankruptcy laws to Puerto Rico…
Much more off-putting is Bush’s call to extend the bankruptcy laws that apply to states and municipalities to Puerto Rico, which would allow for the restructuring of debt owed to the United States. 64% of respondents were less likely to support him and a plurality – 34% – was much less likely.
Apparently, Jeb Bush’s win-the-Hispanic-vote-back-for-conservatives’ strategy seems to be failing spectacularly as polls also don’t seem to be rewarding his efforts with crowds of Hispanic supporters, either.
American voters seem to actually care about what happens in Puerto Rico, like a little bit, I swear. It may be because the islands hold $72 billion in debt. and lack the ability to feasibly pay it off that debt. If Puerto Rico is allowed to renegotiate its debt it may negatively affect the US pension and bond market; however, if state bankruptcy laws aren’t expanded to include Puerto Rico and it can’t restructure its debt, the islands’ economy is likely to continue its decomposition and also ultimately cost the American taxpayer and business interests. The situation has the feel of a classic liberal vs. conservative arm wrestling contest. The conservative position being that a bankruptcy and debt restructuring is a reward for financial mismanagement that will be costly and ultimately ineffective while the liberal position being that bankruptcy and investment in the island is necessary for it to be able to recover, payoff its debt, and produce revenue for the American people.
Jeb Bush has already staked out his position but none of the other Republican candidates have followed him and Republican congressmen have been notably absent as cosponsors on recent bills to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt. The Bush campaign has already eaten some criticism for supporting a Puerto Rican bankruptcy, and as the Republican primary candidates try to climb on top of one another it should be expected that Bush may be attacked on his position on Puerto Rico. With Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party seemingly in support of giving assistance to Puerto Rico this could quickly become a partisan issue as the campaign narrative continues.
Some have also questioned whether Bush’s strategy to hinge his election prospects on his ability to court Latino voters was dubious to begin with. Though Bush has polled better among Latinos than other Republican candidates he is hardly the preferred option when matched against Democrats like Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, Latinos historically haven’t reliably cast their votes based on whether or not the candidate has a claim to the Latino identity. When it comes down to the issues most Latino voting groups lean firmly blue; but as Conservative Intel put it:
While he may pin some of his presidential hopes on his potential appeal to Hispanic voters, especially in the general election, if he is unable to persuade Iowa caucus-goers and other early state Republicans, it won’t matter.
Simply stated, early state Republicans right now just don’t seem to like him or the horchata that Bush has been serving. Still, even if Jeb Bush doesn’t survive past the early primaries, he has at least succeeded in helping to bring Puerto Rico closer to the center of public attention.