The first official pre-candidate for the presidential election is a Latino born in Canada. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is the third Hispanic in the history of the U.S. to officially declare his ambition to reach the White House. Still, his wish is likely to be thwarted, as was the case with his predecessors Ben Fernández and Bill Richardson.
Cruz’s chances to win the Republican nomination are slim, as the list of aspiring nominees to the 2016 election will be long. This despite the fact that many are already behaving as candidates even though they still have not announced it.
The early presence of Cruz in the primaries guarantees that the agenda of the Tea Party – which supports the Texas elected official – will be front and center in the Republican party’s internal debate. This will push the rest of the pre-candidates – who need the support of the ultra-conservative faction – to the extreme right.
At the same time, Cruz’s presence opens the door to the question of whether it is enough to have a Spanish-speaking or Latino candidate to gain the support of the Hispanic community. In his case, his agenda and style – which made him stand out in the Senate – make him incompatible with the Hispanic majority.
Republicans are putting their hopes on Florida senator Marco Rubio to attract the Latino vote this election cycle. While the legislator is nor as strident as Cruz, it would be a mistake for Republicans to see him as “the great Latino hope.”
The Latino community is greatly diverse ideologically, geographically and in terms of nationality, all determining factors when choosing a candidate. A conservative may like Rubio; a Mexican may not want to vote for a Cuban-American, and immigrants citizens – regardless of their origin – may already be angry at him if their concern is immigration reform.
There was a time when it was believed that babbling in Spanish and bringing in a mariachi were enough to make a candidate win the Latino vote. However, the political maturity of the Hispanic community has grown along with its demographics, and it has gained spaces and presence to the point that its vote can decide an election.
Cruz’s pre-candidacy reminds everyone that Latinos are an integral and diverse part of the political environment, and that it takes much more than a Spanish last name to conquer this constituency.