How Will the GOP Replace Hispanic Votes?
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 08:13:56 AM EDT
In much of the talk about Republicans and Hispanic voters, attention has focused on long-term trends that seem to suggest that looming demographic changes within the electorate, particularly the relative growth in minority populations within the country, spell real trouble for the Grand Old Party. But could the Republicans' problems in this area be significantly more immediate than that?
Today The Washington Post's Perry Bacon Jr. takes a look at the refusal of the leading Republican presidential candidates to participate in forums aimed at reaching African-Americans and Hispanics, two groups that tend to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates but which nonetheless do deliver at least some portion of their vote to the GOP. Along with it a couple choice quote from leading 1990s Republicans
"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."
"For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."
The folks at NBC's First Read looked at this article and raised an important question:
George W. Bush grabbing approximately 40% of the Latino vote was key to him narrowly winning re-election in 2004. Can any of the GOP candidates -- besides McCain -- match that number in 2008? If not, how do they make up for those lost votes?
In a sense, I don't buy all of the premises of the question. First and foremost, it's not at all clear to me that John McCain, who has gone back on his support for a sensible reform to American immigration policy in the hopes of having a shot at winning his party's presidential nomination, would have such a great chance at matching George W. Bush's share of the Hispanic vote. More broadly, I don't think the question today should even necessarily be if any Republican will be able to match George W. Bush's 40 percent but rather if any Republican will be able to match the already paltry 30 percent of the Hispanic vote that the party secured in the 2006 midterms.
That said, it's a question very much worth asking. And given that the leading Republican candidates have not only not reached out to these communities but they have also done much to alienate them with their rhetoric and actions, it's also worth asking how the eventual GOP nominee is going to make up those lost votes. His he going to turn out more white Evangelical males? Millions of them? Is he somehow going to convince single women that the GOP's policies aren't antithetical to their interests and beliefs? Will the GOP redouble its efforts to suppress the votes of the constituencies that traditionally back Democrats? And even if all of that happens, will it be enough? I'm no Republican strategist, but I'm not sure the answer to the fundamental question -- whether there are enough votes out there to make up for their foregone support -- is one they're going to want to hear.