Columns

Can the GOP Lose the Latino Vote and Still Win the White House?

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: January 16, 2012 3:55 AM
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Nancy Smith

The folks you see out there yahooing and happy dancing and sending up fireworks -- figuratively speaking, anyway -- are probably Democrats.

Dems spent a large chunk of last week predicting doom for front-runner Mitt Romney and virtually the whole of the GOP presidential field for taking a tough stance on immigration. They claim Republicans are digging a deep hole for themselves with Latinos.

"He'll be lucky to get 8 percent of the Hispanic vote," said DeeDee Blase, founder of Somos Republicans in Arizona.

Blase was speaking of Romney, who had just delivered the double whammy -- first saying he would veto legislation that creates a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, then accepting the endorsement of strident anti-immigration activist Kris Kobach.

Kobach is Kansas' controversial secretary of state and author of immigration law in South Carolina and Arizona, law that its critics call the "show me your papers" statute.

How damaging is the GOP presidential candidates' hard line on immigration? Is it likely to cost the Republicans dearly in November?

It depends who you listen to.

David Leopold, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, admits the GOP will get a boost in South Carolina from its candidates' tough anti-immigration talk. But, he says, if Romney or a candidate like him wins the nomination, Latinos and the party could split irreconcilably for a long time to come.

"Anti-immigration agendas have rarely served American politicians well," says Leopold. "Just ask former California Governor Pete Wilson, former U.S. Representative J.D. Hayworth, and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo.

"That's because, as the polls show, Americans are a compassionate people. They want the broken immigration system fixed, and a humane solution, including a pathway to legal status, for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. The mass deportation 'cattle car' approach ... is neither feasible nor humane."

On the other hand, Cal Marshland, retired professor of political science at the University of California, told Sunshine State News that Republicans have nothing to worry about if they choose to act on immigration with strength and determination. Polls have shown that voters as a whole want the immigration problem put right, he says. They want the laws already on the books enforced, period.

"The fact is, Latinos just don't affect elections in America as you might think. In pockets, yes. But the Latino share of the electorate has actually remained stagnant for much of the past decade," Marshland claims.

"In 2004, Latino voters comprised 8.24 percent of the electorate. In 2006, they were 7.94 percent of the electorate. In 2008, they were 8.38 percent and in 2010, they were once again around 8 percent.

"In other words, for a variety of reasons, the surge in Latino population has not translated into a surge in Latino voting power (and remember, there was a huge registration and get-out-the-vote drive in 2008 among Latinos, both in the primaries and the general election)."

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, is convinced that to win in 2012, he will need a heavy turnout from his base and a repeat level of support from the Latino voters.

Observes Alexandra Fitzpatrick, a Washington, D.C.-based GOP consultant, "In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Senator John McCain only captured 31 percent. Since taking office, Obama’s approval has plummeted among Latinos, losing as much as 30 percent since 2009."

No wonder. Immigration is also a weak spot for Obama ahead of the November election. He made a campaign pledge to overhaul the immigration system and neither he nor his administration has raised a finger. His answer so far has been to blame the problem on lack of cooperation from Republicans in Congress. But that rings hollow, considering he recorded 400,000 deportations last year  -- a record number.

The 2012 election, Fitzpatrick says, will be about margins -- small margins. An August 2011 Gallup Poll showed that as many as 12 states are in play. And a core group of them, many with significant Latino populations, will likely be too close to call until the final hour. Some of these swing states:
  • Florida (29 electoral votes) – 15 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
  • Arizona (11 electoral votes) – 18 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
  • Nevada (6 electoral votes) – 14 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
  • New Mexico (5 electoral votes) – 38 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
  • Colorado (9 electoral votes) – 13 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
The question Republican leaders are asking on this matter, and rightly so, is why would they want to risk their elephant becoming a dinosaur? It could happen.

By 2050 the government projects Latinos/Hispanics will double their size, boost their clout and account for some 30 percent of the population. Politically, Latinos tilt Democratic, meaning the Republican Party is looking at a threat down the road. The party really does have to find a way "in." It has to connect with this politically pivotal group now.

Without forcing party philosophy down the candidates' throats, the Republican National Committee last week unveiled a plan to win over Latinos.

National Party Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the RNC has hired Bettina Inclan as director of Hispanic outreach.

Bringing Inclan on board means the party will step up its effort to connect with the Latino/Hispanic community. It will include digital outreach, traditional voter identification and a sizable get-out-the-vote effort.

In those key swing states, Priebus said, the party will put teams on the ground. Sen. Marco Rubio will lead Florida's team.

The economy remains the major issue in this election cycle among Latinos, as it is among most Americans. Yet, connecting with this group is far more complex than a single issue; it’s about creating a respectful dialogue, especially on immigration.

Maybe the GOP can win the White House without Latinos on its side. But why would it want to take the risk?

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (15)

Kathleen
11:09PM JAN 16TH 2012
Somos Republicans have been exposed as a front group for LaRaza. The media and groups such as LaRaza and Somos Republicans insult every law-abiding, patriotic American of Latino-heritage by including them among those who are hellbent on turning our country into a clone of the lawless, corrupt, third world countries the illegal aliens left behind before invading ours.

Perhaps the reporter should be educated on exactly what group is the majority in this country. Clue: it is not Hispanics.
LDouglas
9:07PM JAN 16TH 2012
Wow- so many spot on comments....
Larry
6:52PM JAN 16TH 2012
Help stop illegal immigration. HERE'S HOW: GOOGLE....... Numbersusa

This site won't allow links.
jacim obmed
6:32PM JAN 16TH 2012
"Maybe the GOP can win the White House without Latinos on its side. But why would it want to take the risk?" If you really want an answer to this read what follows very carefully.

The base of the republican party consists of white blue collar workers. They earn between $30K and $75$ per year and they have little or no collage education. They work with their hands and their backs and they have not have a increase in their living standards since the mid 60's. They are being driven to the wall and they fear for their children. Their economic misery is largely caused by the mass influx of cheap immigrant labor (much of it illegal). The oversupply has driving down wages for these folks and taken vital employment slots. They see it ever day where they work. On the farms, construction sites, factors and kitchens of this nation. It is obvious to anyone with eyes and it is supported by basic economic theory; oversupply causes lower price. The republican base asks why their government lets this happen to them. Bad enough that the low cost of labor overseas is causing businesses to outsource jobs to China and Mexico and India. We don't also need the government allowing mass inflow of labor to take the few Jobs we still have left. We have laws against such inflows and yet they are not enforced. Why is this? Romney is the first politician to offer a clear and unequivocal promise to fix the problem. It is not a matter of being against brown people or foreign people. It is a matter of social justice and help for our fellow americans.
Groscoe
5:19PM JAN 16TH 2012
Sean Trende of Real CLear Politics gave a great lecture on 2012 election......Obama is toast......

Everyone makes a big deal of the Hispanic vote...it is not there
John Bowman
4:19PM JAN 16TH 2012
"By 2050 the government projects Latinos/Hispanics will double their size, boost their clout and account for some 30 percent of the population."

If this happens, and since most of those 30% would be un-assimilated Mexicans, by 2050 there won't be Presidential elections or Democratic or Republican Parties, since the US would have been absorbed into the North American Union before then.

That what this issue and this election is about, continuation of the USA as a sovereign country, it's not about normal immigration.
Groscoe
5:22PM JAN 16TH 2012
I would agree with you........

And.......Did you know the largest political party in Central and South America PAN.......has 11 or more active political offices in the USA?......What would Mexico say if the Republicans opened 11 political offices in MX?
Ali999
12:06PM JAN 16TH 2012
Why would Republicans want to take the risk of alienating the majority of the American population by supporting amnesty for illegal aliens, particularly since Hispanics are NOT monolithic on the issue. Moreover, surely the author of this piece is aware that "population" does not translate into voters as many Hispanics are here illegally and are not eligible to vote. An amnesty on the other hand would turn them into voters and there is simply no way Republicans can outpander to poor unskilled Democratic-leaning legalized illegal aliens.
Bob Jason
10:08AM JAN 16TH 2012
The latino/hispanic vote does not belong to the democratic party anymore than did ted Ted Kennedy's seat in the Senate. This block of voters is made up of immigrants from many spanish speaking countries and like the rest of Americans they are concerned with jobs, the national debt, government spending and etc.. Though they might feel compassion for those trying to come to America illegally, they are also tired of paying increased taxes to pay for the social services that illegals consume. On social issues, they are more in tune with republican party planks regarding the definition of marriage and family values. They need to be courted by the republicans but not treated as somehow they don't hold the same values and concerns of most Americans.
amos33
9:05AM JAN 16TH 2012
Latinos are conservative by nature and the things that bother them most are not immigration but family values and Christian values. Pollsters are way off they are much more wise then you think.
ZOO
9:51PM JAN 16TH 2012
Obama can count on 70%-plus of the Mexican vote. That vote is what squeaked out Reid for re-election in Nevada, Grijalva in Arizona, and keeps California sliding down the Sonoran sewer. Pollsters are now scrambling to see if a GOP win is possible i.e. has the Mexican vote reached critical mass to swing a presidential election? The pro-illegal broadcast media will be using those findings as nuclear-fired missiles until November in one last-ditch attempt to save Obama and protect the invasion.
Groscoe
5:25PM JAN 16TH 2012
Is that why the HS dropout rate for Hispanics is 50% as well as the single parent birth rate is 50%.....If you call that conservative what is liberal?
Robert Lloyd
8:52AM JAN 16TH 2012
An article of racism. To heck with what is right, but will we lose the Hispanic vote?

Stupid mainstream journalism that is killing America.
LDouglas
8:34AM JAN 16TH 2012
"Maybe the GOP can win the White House without Latinos on its side. But why would it want to take the risk?"

Maybe because for every Latino that they lose because of their stance on immigration, there's a good chance they gain two independents or other party affiliaties because of it.

BTW, illegal immigration is an American issue, not a Latino/Hispanic issue. All making it one accomplishes IMO, is to segregate us.
Pat Galbraith
7:18AM JAN 16TH 2012
Can anybody tell me what a "Latino" is and contrast it with "Hispanic". To be honest, I am sick and tired of hyphenated Whatever-Americans. I am first generation born here. My people didn't come to be what they were. They came here to be much more than what the could have been. And, having been in twenty countries, this is the best damn place on earth. To paraphrase a bumper snicker we had in Alaska, "I don't give a damn how they do it any place else".

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