Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shared stages with mariachi bands at countless events targeting Latino voters in the critical California primary. One Clinton campaign event featured catered tacos and pupusas. Sanders went to the border and spoke to a deported American soldier.
Both made campaign issues out of immigration topics that presidential candidates avoided in the past. Both presented ambitious plans for access to affordable public college and health care.
For Clinton especially, the outreach seems to have worked.
There were no statewide exit polls for Tuesday's vote, but Clinton, who won the state overall by roughly 56–43%, led in the 10 congressional districts in the state with the highest share of Latinos among eligible voters. All 10 districts are in Southern California.
Clinton carried District 38, which covers southeast Los Angeles and has the highest share of Latinos. Preliminary results in the district, which includes the cities of Montebello and La Mirada, showed her ahead 57% to 41%.
And Clinton captured 55% in the district with the largest Latino population, District 40, which includes historically Mexican-American East L.A. It is the second most Latino district in the nation, with 89% of the population identifying as Latino.
Even in the tightest of those 10 districts, south of Fresno and north of Los Angeles, Clinton led by more than 8 percentage points.
Latinos in California favoring Clinton may not come as a surprise, considering she won 67% of the Latino vote in the primary against then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
But the highly coveted Latino vote in California wasn’t a given for Clinton this time around. Late last week, some experts believed Latinos could decide Sanders’ fate in California, where he was hoping for a win to steal momentum from Clinton.
“He needs an influx of young Latinos and he’s getting it, it’s happening,” Sanders campaign pollster Ben Tulchin told the Associated Press last month.
Both campaigns told Fusion that Sanders probably did win Latino voters under the age of 50.
“Young voters are certainly part of the [Sanders campaign’s] core constituency, and they are doing better with young Latinos,” said Matt Barreto, a pollster for the Clinton campaign who focuses on Latinos and co-founded the polling firm Latino Decisions.
Young Democratic voters of all races are far more likely to support the Sanders campaign, exit polls have shown throughout the campaign. But Clinton “is still competing for young Latinos,” Barreto said in a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon.
A Los Angeles Times/USC survey released this week found Latinos under age 50 choose Sanders over Clinton by 58% to 31%.
But it’s a much different story with Latinos over of 50, who support Clinton, 69% to 16%. Entrance polls before the Nevada caucus in February showed similar results.
The Sanders campaign blames the disconnect with older Latinos on Spanish-language news outlets.
“With all due respect to Latino press, they’ve been very biased,” Erika Andiola, the Sanders campaign’s national press secretary for Latinx outreach, told Fusion.
When Andiola joined the Sanders campaign in October 2015, it was a news item by itself. She is a “proud undocumented and unafraid Mexican American,” as she notes in her profile on Twitter.
The Clinton campaign also tried strengthening its connection with Latinos by hiring young leaders from the immigrant rights movement to lead Latino outreach.
And both campaigns focused heavily on immigration—and on Donald Trump.
“Just yesterday Donald Trump doubled down on his plan to create a deportation force to round up millions of people, that’s actually what he said," Clinton said at a Cinco de Mayo rally in Boyle Heights. "He has pledged in his first days in office to scrap DACA and DAPA. And to finalize a design for a giant wall on the border. Well, the best way to prevent that from happening is to make sure he never gets near the White House."
“I got to start by saying that on Cinco de Mayo," she said, "I can’t think of a better place to be than right here.
Clinton and Sanders both presented ambitious plans for other issues close to Latinos; better, higher-paying jobs, access to affordable public colleges and health care programs.
Both were accused of pandering to Latino voters but in the end, there were also some unprecedented moves made by presidential campaigns—including hiring undocumented women to lead their Latino outreach efforts.
In another first, Clinton made transgender women who are detained in men’s detention centers a campaign issue. More recently Sanders visited the U.S.-Mexico border and told a U.S. veteran who was deported that he should be on the U.S. side of the fence.