I’ve written many times — including in the best-selling(ish) “Gospel According to The Fix” — that Republicans are staring a demographic disaster straight in the eye. That disaster is the party’s increasing inability to win over Latino voters at the same time that Hispanics are comprising an ever-larger portion of the overall population and electorate.
A terrific new study called “States of Change” conducted by the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings, of which I will have LOTS more to say in this space later (and that Dan Balz has written eloquently on already), contains a chart of the tipping point at which states will become majority-minority. The results are striking — and should be terrifying for Republicans. Here’s the chart:
At the moment, there are only four states — California, Texas, Hawaii and New Mexico — that are majority-minority in population. But the trend line is remarkable. The study’s authors write:
The next two majority-minority states, Maryland and Nevada, should arrive in the next five years. After that, there should be four more in the 2020s: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. In the 2030s, these states should be joined by Alaska, Louisiana, and New York, and in the 2040s, these states should be joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The 2050s should round out the list by adding Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington. By 2060, that should bring the number of majority-minority states to 22, including seven of the currently largest states and 11 of the top 15. Together, these 22 states account for about two-thirds of the country’s population.
Think about that for a minute. By 2060, 11 of the 15 largest states will be majority-minority — states that includes electorally critical battlegrounds such as Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. When you consider that Mitt Romney won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally (13 points worse than George W. Bush did eight years earlier), you begin to see that if things continue in their current direction, Republicans will be hard-pressed to be competitive in national elections in a decade or two.
But, wait, you say. Texas is ALREADY majority minority by population, and Republicans won overwhelmingly there in 2014. True. But it’s worth noting that the Hispanic population, nationally and in Texas, is younger and less registered to vote as a percentage of its eligible voting population than any other demographic group. As that community ages and gets more acclimated with the voting process, those numbers are likely to change.
New Mexico provides a recent example. In 1994, New Mexico became a majority-minority population. And yet, Bush was able to be extremely competitive in the state in 2000 (he lost the state to Al Gore by about 350 votes) and 2004 (he won by a point over John Kerry). By 2006, New Mexico became a majority-minority state by eligible voter population, and you began to see it shift heavily away from Republicans at the federal level. Barack Obama won the state by 15 points in 2008 and 10 points in 2012. Democrats won open Senate seat races in the Land of Enchantment in 2008 and 2012.
Now, demographics isn’t entirely destiny. Witness this tweet from Republican consultant Brad Todd:
— Brad Todd (@BradOnMessage) March 2, 2015
And Brad is right, in that Martinez won and got reelected as a Republican in New Mexico. But, two points: (1) State elections (such as for governor) are not the same as federal ones (like for president) and (2) Martinez is Hispanic.
The simple fact is that Republicans can’t simply hope that that the trend line on the Hispanic vote magically changes. While the party has done a very good job at the state level electing Hispanics — Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval are two major stars — the fight over immigration reform happening in Congress and in the early stages of the 2016 presidential race could very well set back the party’s attempts to make inroads with voters who are absolutely critical to their future as, well, a party.
Demographics might not be destiny. But Republicans are staring at the wrong end of a demographic transformation that threatens to upend the current political map.