"Defund the Police" rhetoric and fears that progressive climate policies could cost oil jobs boosted President Trump's performance in blue, largely Latino Texas counties bordering Mexico, a top Hispanic leader tells Axios.
Driving the news: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose 28th Congressional District runs from the outskirts of San Antonio to the Rio Grande, toured eight counties in his district over four days last week.
- Several counties swung to President Trump even as down-ballot Democrats held strong.
- Most notably, Trump won the small border county of Zapata with 53% of the vote after losing it to Hillary Clinton by 33 percentage points.
Why it matters: Latinos were an important part of Joe Biden's winning coalition, but leaders are warning that Democrats could lose more loyalty in 2022 midterms or the 2024 presidential race if they feel taken for granted or the party pushes too far left.
The big picture: The top two recurring concerns in Cuellar's constituent conversations were oil and defunding the police.
- In small counties, sheriff and police departments are often one of the biggest local employers. The Texas Democrat found himself having to reassure numerous law enforcement officials who were anxious about budget cuts.
- In Zapata, Webb and Starr counties, Cuellar heard support for moving to cleaner energy but he worries about its impact on employment. "You can't go in and get rid of jobs," he said. Trump pounded the Democrats over their Clean New Deal and stoked concern they would ban fracking.
Between the lines: Concerns about illegal immigration also played a role....
- Cuellar has loudly opposed the president's border