Why Republicans can’t write off Hispanics

by Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

Much has been made in the last 96 hours of President Obama’s decision to stop deporting young illegal immigrants and its impact on the 2012 election.

And while the short-term political impact of how the announcement could impact Obama’s strength among Hispanic voters is significant, it pales in comparison to the long-term political effect if Hispanics become a solidly Democratic voting bloc in the way that African-Americans have.

Since 1992, Republicans have lost ground with with black and Asian-American voters while largely holding steady(ish) with Hispanics. The only gains they have made are with white voters; 40 percent of whites voted for George H.W. Bush in 1992, while 55 percent of white voters chose John McCain in 2008.

Here’s the full vote breakout — courtesy of our partners @postpolls — of the vote by race from 1992 to 2008.

The problem for Republicans — as it relates to their long term prospects as a majority party in the country — is that the white vote continues to shrink as a share of the overall electorate.

In 1992, 87 percent of the electorate was white, according to exit polls. Sixteen years later, whites made up just 74 percent of all voters. (The number of white voters as a percentage of the overall electorate has dropped in each of the four elections since 1992.)

Over that same time period, Hispanic voters have quadrupled as percentage of the overall electorate — going from 2 percent in 1992 to 9 percent on 2008. (Black voters have grown more marginally — from 8 percent in 1992 to 13 percent in 2008 — while Asian-Americans have largely stayed stagnant.)

What all of that means is that, as the electorate has grown increasingly more diverse, Republicans voters remain largely white.

Here’s a look — from 1972 through 2008 — at the percentage of the Republican vote that has been white. It was at 96 percent way back in 1972 and was close to the same — 90 percent — in 2008.

The math is easy — even for a non-math major like The Fix. African-Americans and Asian-Americans — based on their past voting patterns — seem to be solidly Democratic communities. (Despite aggressive efforts by the likes of former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman in the mid-2000s to court black voters, there’s little evidence even a portion of African-Americans are up for grabs.)

Hispanics are not only the fastest-growing bloc of the electorate, but they are also the only one that has shown any willingness to vote Republican in recent years. (President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, according to exit polling that some have disputed.)

Given the data points above, Republicans literally cannot afford to let Hispanics become reliably Democratic. At some point in the future — given current demographic trends — Republicans could win virtually every single white vote in the country and not be able to win a national election.

The likes of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour understand the ignominious political destiny that the current demographics promise for their party.It’s why Republicans must find a way to bend the curve among Hispanic voters or run the risk of relegation to long-term underdog status.

New Obama ad pitches Obamacare to Latinos: Obama’s campaign continues its push for the Latino vote, launching a new Spanish-language TV ad playing up the benefits of the president’s health care bill.

The ads feature Latino talk show host Cristina Saralegui, who was brought to the United States by her parents when she was a child — a symbol of the young illegal immigrants who benefit from Obama’s new policy exempting them from deportation. (Saralegui endorsed Obama after the policy was announced.)

The ad will run in the three most Latino swing states: Colorado, Florida and Nevada.Unlike the population as a whole, Latinos are broadly supportive of Obama’s health care bill.

A March poll from the Pew Research Center showed 69 percent of Latinos either wanted the law expanded (49 percent) or to stay as-is (20 percent), and a January Univision poll showed 57 percent supporting it and only 28 percent opposing it.

this article  appeared on the WAPO on 6/19/12

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