The New Latino Challenge For The GOP: How To Apportion The Latino Power In The Southwest

By Alex Gonzalez

The official turnout numbers regarding the Latino vote are not available yet; but the exit polls show that Latinos were about 10% of the total electorate.  Though, this percentage indeed is the second time that Latinos debunked the argument that Latinos are “less enthusiastic about the election,” the most significant event that happened within the Latino vote was the increase of non-Cuban Latino voters in Florida, and more Mexican-Americans voters in Colorado and Nevada. Pundits are dubbing it  as “demographic bomb” for Republican and in state-by-state Latinos vote increased its percentage  as  a share of total vote. Too, Obama increased his appeal with Latinos to 69-71%; the most troubling percentage is that Romney, in fact, did worse than John McCain in 2008. Once the final numbers are tallied it is possible that Romney will end up with only little more than 25% of the Latino vote.  And, because politics is about power,  and most likely right now  Tea Party groups are plotting how maximize their clout with the GOP—and perhaps will claiming that Romney lost because he was not conservative enough– Latinos need to play the power game as well to assert their clout.

Florida was supposed to be the big opportunity for Romney to show that the GOP was in the right place to woo Latinos.  This, of course, was based on the belief that  support from older pre-Marielito the Cuban-American voters who tend to vote Republican could hold the state Red.  However,  in Florida, where the Electoral votes most likely will go to Obama too with 50-49 victory, Obama won the Latino vote.  Also, 60% of Latinos in the state voted for Obama while only 38% voted for Romney. This is a bigger margin than in 2008 when 56% of Latinos voted for Obama.   Florida, Latino voters were 16% share of voters in the state.  Democrat Ben Nelson was re-elected with a 55-42 margin and Cubans also loss the Republican Congressional seat of David Rivera to Cuban-American Democrat Joe Garcia.

Thus, the Cuban bloc did not improve the chances of Romney with Latinos because the new Latino voters in the state are non-Cubans.  They are Mexican-Americans or Puerto Ricans or, “assimilated” 2nd and 3rd generation of Cuban-Americans who care about issues other than the Embargo and the anti-Castro rhetoric.  As a result, this election show that the Cuban-Republican monopoly is shrinking to levels where they can no longer guarantee a victory without incorporating other  Latino groups.  So Look for Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (both Cubans) to work on resolving  the needs of Cubans and  Mexican-American voter in the southwest.  We need to consider whether Mexican-Americans, in the southwest, still continue taking surrogate roles only, even though Cubans can no longer deliver Florida?

Consequently, in the coming elections, The RNC can no longer rely on Cuban-Americans in Florida as “the model” to grow the Republican Hispanic base in southwest.  The inability of older pre-Marielito Cubans in Florida to build winning collation should warn the RNC that they are shrinking brand that can no longer deliver the state.

In Texas, it is always difficult to get exit polls. But here  is what we have thus far. Romney won with 57% 41. But in Texas Democrat Pete P. Gallego defeated Republican “Quico” Canseco with 51.68—44.20 in Congressional Disc 23.  This is one of biggest losses for the Texas GOP and the National Republican platform since Canseco was the go-to guy to give interviews on Univision to show the GOP as the party  of Latinos. Canseco was labeled as “Tea Partier” who opposed   the Dream Act and tough-on-immigration in district that is 80% Mexican-Americans.  Though, Bill Flores was re-elected with whooping 79% in Congressional Dist 17, Flores was never touted to the media as the Latino candidates in Texas and the nation. The Canseco race was so important for the PR purposes that the RNC spent more in this district than it did in the entire southwest to attract Latino voters.

At the state level,  2 Latinos were re-elected as Republicans:  JM Lozano (HD 43), and Larry Gonzales (HD 52),  and 1 rookie  Republican  Jason Villella (HD114).  Republicans lost seat of Raul Torres in Senate dist 20 and John V Garza (HD 117).  At the state level, two of the biggest losses were those of Raul Torres and John V. Garza,  because Torres and Garza are prominent voices in the moderate Republican circles calling for reasonable immigration reform and education.  And both are true gentlemen who can have a voice in the future of the Party since they are very likable.  So the fact is that Latino Republicans have no place in a nativists anti-immigrant movement, especially when they run in districts where 80% of resident are Latinos.

In this election, Obama won with a bigger margin among Latinos in Nevada, California, Colorado, and New Mexico than in 2008.

In Colorado,  Obama won with 51-45, with Latinos making 11% share of the state voters.  In Colorado, 75%of Latinos voted for Obama and only 25% for Romney.  Republican had hopes in this state because McCain did much better than Bush, even if he lost the state to Obama.   However, Romney got only 25% of Latino vote, whereas McCain got 37% in 2008.

In Nevada, Obama won with 52-45. Also, in Nevada, 69% of Latinos voted for Obama while only 24% voted for Romney with Latinos making 19% share of the state. This was the state where Romney was expected to perform better since there is large Mormon population in Northern Nevada.

In New Mexico,  Obama won with a 52-43, which is 3 points less than in 2008 when Obama got 56% o the vote.   Also, New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez was helping some Democrats state senators. But since Democrats will keep the House,  the defeat of the Tea Party across the nation may encourage her to abandoned the issue of driver licenses for illegal immigrants now that she may have pressured for the RNC to drops the issues o immigration altogether.

In California, Obama won with 59-38, with 69% of Latinos voting for Obama and only 29% for Romney.  In California, Latinos were 22% share of the state voters.   This is the same story from 2 years ago. Republicans cannot dig themselves out of the hole (29% of registered voters) without luring Latinos, and Asians, into the party to grow the Party back.

In Arizona, Romney won with a 55-43. But 77% of Latinos voted for Obama and only 22% voted for Romney with Latinos making 19% share of the state voters. This is a big leap from 2008 when Latinos were only 11% of the vote in the state.

Overall, Latinos indeed perform much better than 2008, although it will take about two months before we can see all the data and the issues, including Texas. And there is a clear pattern of “republican shrinkage” in Florida among Cuban-Americans and increase voter registration and turnout among Mexican Americans in Florida, Colorado, Nevada,  Arizona, and California. But these new voters also show a clear pattern that they dislike anti-immigrants candidates, candidates with bad rhetoric toward women,  and Tea Party candidates.

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director  for Latinos Ready To Vote.  He received a Bachelor Degrees in and a Masters’ Degrees, with emphasis in American politics  from San Fransisco State University.
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