I think Bill Zeiser speaks to two sides of a major problem facing today’s Republican Party.
When it comes to the Hispanic vote, the GOP suffers from cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, they pay lip-service to a burgeoning constituency that produces 50,000 potential new voters every month. On the other, they appear perfectly content to cede their support. This, despite the fact that 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses anchor a Latin mainstream that identifies the economy as the country’s chief concern.
After the 2012 cycle, the conservative pollsters at Resurgent Republic took a closer look at four critical swing states—Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico—with a post-election survey of Hispanic voters. Their conclusion? “Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters.” Bill cites Ramesh Ponnuru’s criticism in his piece—his analysis is fair, but, perhaps, too pessimistic. It also speaks to hard truths.
The 2012 electorate comprised the smallest share of white voters (72 percent, down from 74 percent in 2008) and the largest share of minority voters (28 percent) in American history. This trend will likely persist, and talk of a permanent Hispanic majority for the Democratic party has only grown with their base.
Roundly criticized for an alleged preference for large, corporate interests (to the detriment of small businesses and the middle class) Mitt Romney surrendered any hope of an alliance with Latino voters from the outset of his candidacy. All told, according to Resurgent Republic, “At a time of growing Hispanic influence in the electorate, Mitt Romney received the lowest percentage of the Hispanic vote of any Republican presidential nominee in a two-candidate election since Watergate.”
Said Republican pollster Whit Ayers, co-founder of Resurgent Republic:
The handwriting is on the wall. Until Republican candidates figure out how to perform better among non-white voters, especially Hispanics and Asians, Republican presidential contenders will have an extraordinarily difficult time winning presidential elections from this point forward.
Fact is, the Republican brand earns net unfavorable ratings among Hispanic voters in every polled swing-state. Fortunately, individual Republican officials are regarded more favorably than the GOP label, in general, or Mitt Romney, in particular. For instance, governors like Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada enjoy very favorable ratings among their Hispanic constituents.
Cause for further encouragement—an April 2012 report by the same pollsters dispelled the myth of a monolithic Latino voting bloc. As they noted, the top priority for Hispanic swing voters (yes, these exist) remains the economy. President Obama’s image has been tarnished by an anemic economy. These voters favor national immigration laws that reflect “the values of opportunity, hard work...and the American dream.” (GOP lawmakers should take heed of this last point.)
Most promisingly, Hispanic voters remain open to conservative education reforms, like school choice that promotes greater teacher accountability and increased parental involvement. Perhaps we can translate small-government solutions to other societal problems from a similar perspective. In other words, we have to get beyond the usual talking points, and look for new and interesting angles to communicate universal values we can all get behind. Simply writing off Hispanic voters (thereby surrendering the GOP as a national brand when Texas turns purple) isn’t an option.