Lose Hispanics, Lose Elections- Maybe
Days after the last presidential election, Republican strategist, CNN contributor, and national Hispanic co-chairperson of John McCain's presidential campaign Ana Navarro stated "if we don't do better with Hispanics, we'll be out of the White House forever." In March, USA Today reported
At the Conservative Political Action Conference that wrapped up Saturday outside Washington, speakers including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged Republicans to embrace "inclusion and acceptance" in order to regain power. During a panel on immigration, all the speakers favored some form of legalized status for illegal immigrants.
"The evolution of the conservative movement on the issue of immigration is nothing less than astonishing,'' CPAC organizer Al Cardenas said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
The meme that the Hispanic vote is crucial- not important, not vitally important, but crucial- in presidential elections is popular not only among Repubs but among others throughout the political spectrum. In what was originally an off-the-record interview last October with the Des Moines Register, President Obama stated
And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.
Barack Obama won the election (perhaps you noticed) as he gained 71% of the Hispanic vote to 27% garnered by Mitt Romney. Not surprisingly, then, speaking before a group of students in Mexico City Friday, the President maintained "In fact without the support of Latinos including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing here today as president of the United States. That's the truth."
Er, uh.... no, it's not. Longtime conservative journalist Byron York reviews Nate Silvers' post "How Immigration Reform and Demographics Could Change Presidential Math" and argues
Start with the 2012 exit polls. The New York Times' Nate Silver has created an interactive tool in which one can look at the presidential election results and calculate what would have happened if the racial and ethnic mix of voters had been different. The tool also allows one to project future results based on any number of scenarios in which the country's demographic profile and voting patterns change.
What if Romney had won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, the high-water mark for Republicans achieved by George W. Bush in 2004? As it turns out, if Romney had hit that Bush mark, he still would have lost, with 240 electoral votes to 298 for Obama.
But what if Romney had been able to make history and attract 50 percent of Hispanic voters? What then? He still would have been beaten, 283 electoral votes to 255.
What if Romney had been able to do something absolutely astonishing for a Republican and win 60 percent of the Hispanic vote? He would have lost by the same margin, 283 electoral votes to 255.
But what if Romney had been able to reach a mind-blowing 70 percent of the Hispanic vote? Surely that would have meant victory, right? No, it wouldn't. Romney still would have lost, although by the narrowest of electoral margins, 270 to 268. (Under that scenario, Romney would have won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College; he could have racked up huge numbers of Hispanic votes in California, New York and Texas, for example, and not changed the results in those states.)
According to the Times' calculator, Romney would have had to win 73 percent of the Hispanic vote to prevail in 2012. Which suggests that Romney, and Republicans, had bigger problems than Hispanic voters.
Romney lost because he did not appeal to the millions of Americans who have seen their standard of living decline over the past decades. They're nervous about the future. When Romney did not address their concerns, they either voted for Obama or didn't vote at all. If the next Republican candidate can address their concerns effectively, he will win. And, amazingly enough, he'll win a lot more Hispanic votes in the process. A lot from other groups, too.
It would do more than any immigration bill or outreach program ever could.
Silver foregoes the opportunity to blow his own horn, slap his own back, or , for that matter, to use any awful cliche. But before he accurately predicted the winner of the presidential vote in each state, he wrote on June 1, 2012
On the whole, if you take a weighted average of the Hispanic turnout in each state based on its tipping point index, it comes out to about 6 percent, less than the 9 percent Hispanic turnout throughout the country as a whole. That means a Hispanic voter is somewhat less likely to swing the Electoral College outcome than if they were evenly distributed (as a share of the population) throughout all 50 states.
Silver's was the only voice even hinting at the possibility that Hispanic voters might not decide the presidential election. Since the election, Republicans, Democrats, the mainstream media, the alternative media and anyone who is anyone has conflated correlation with correlation, assuming that because Barack Obama won re-election with an overwhelming majority of the Hispanic vote, he won because of that.
Nonetheless, Silver's recent work suggests the GOP would do well to heed York's message that it address the concerns voters of all ethnic groups have for their economic future. It will not, of course, preferring to represent the interests of its donor class while feigning interest in Latinos. There is a myriad of ways it might do so, including (but not limited to) putting up more (conservative) candidates of Spanish-speaking background, investing in Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur, switching to the more current "Latinos" from "Hispanics," or digging in deeper with their opposition to reproductive rights, citing an alleged conservative tilt of the group on cultural issues
Or perhaps the Party will try to find a way to satisfy simultaneously the interests both of Hispanics and of the powerful interest groups which bankroll their party. It could combine advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform with opposition to a clear path to citizenship, an outcome which would be disastrous for the nation... which, of course, suggests that is the course the Grand Old Party will take.