Republicans On Track To Lose The Latino Vote, And The Election, Again

Bill Scher

Ann Coulter is telling Republicans Latino voters are immovably Democratic, and so, there is no point trying to woo them with immigration reform. She argues the only swing voters are “working-class whites are the only swing voters” who, she implies, “detest” immigration reform.

Last month in Real Clear Politics, I crunched the numbers and proved Coulter wrong. While neither Latinos or white working-class voters are a true swing constituency — Latinos lean Democrat and white working-class voters lean Republican — Latinos swung more between 2004 and 2012 than the white working-class did.

In 2004, George W. Bush scored 40 percent of the Latino vote while campaigning on immigration reform — the only time a Republican presidential candidate won the popular vote since 1988. In 2012, Mitt “Self-Deportation” Romney could only scratch out 27 percent.

Perhaps Republicans can’t expect to outright win the Latino vote, but the evidence is clear that supporting immigration reform would boost their numbers. And that could make the difference in swing states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

Coulter was non-plussed with my mathematical presentation. On Twitter, she re-tweeted a post from fellow opponent of immigration reform Mickey Kaus, whose rebuttal to my piece was to note that there are more white working-class voters in America than Latino voters. True, but very much beside the point.

Perhaps this new data will be more compelling: a poll of Latino voters from Univision which further highlights the danger Republicans are in, and the glimmer of hope that remains.

While the ideological makeup of the Latino electorate is ever-so-slightly more liberal than the nation as a whole (28 percent of Latinos call themselves liberal, versus 26 percent of all voters), the partisan breakdown is more than 3-to-1 Democratic: 58 percent Democratic versus 16 percent Republican.

That strongly suggests ideology is not what primarily drives Latinos into the Democratic fold, but specific issues that affect their community like immigration. The poll also asked Latinos if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate that supports a pathway to citizenship or legalizations for the undocumented. While some Republicans have tried to suggest that Latino voters — already here legally — don’t care about immigration reform, “more likely” was the clear winner: 54 percent to 11 percent. The numbers were similar, in reverse, for candidates who oppose reform.

As a result, Hillary Clinton crushes all Republican candidates in the poll’s trial heats. Jeb Bush — who supports legalization but not citizenship for undocumenteds — gets the closest, and it’s not close: 64 to 27 percent.

The poll also tested the candidates in swing state with significant Latino populations. Hillary generally romps in those too. But Jeb does get close in Florida: 49 to 44 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted for immigration reform then distanced himself from it, performs second-best in Florida: 53 to 40 percent.

That’s not only because Bush and Rubio are from Florida, though that surely helps. But they also have the best “favorable” ratings among Latinos nationwide, Bush with 36 percent and Rubio with 35. None of the others tested — Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump — got near 30. All of those either voted against the Senate reform bill or have criticized a path to citizenship on the campaign trail.

The Coulters of the world will choose to look at all this as evidence that the Latino vote is a lost cause for Republicans. But they are not looking close enough.

The overall numbers are the inevitable results of a decade of immigrant-bashing. The few Republicans who have avoided that trend — albeit haltingly and awkwardly at times — outperform the rest of the pack. If Bush and Rubio are only doing marginally better now, think of how they — and the GOP — would do if they fully embraced a path to citizenship without hesitation.

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