The eight states where Latinos could sink the GOP

at 06:30 AM ET, 06/20/2012

Republicans’ emerging problem with Latino voters looks even worse when you factor in the electoral college.

A look at Latino population trends in swing and key red states shows just how ominous the GOP’s future could be if it doesn’t do something about its current struggles with Latino voters.

We noted yesterday that nationwide population and minority voting trends paint a haunting picture for the GOP. But the problem is particularly acute because of the states where Latino growth has been strongest — particularly several key swing states and red states that Democrats are hoping to put in play in the coming elections.

The United States’ Latino population increased from about 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, and about 45 percent of that growth occurred in the eight states in the graph above.

Of that 15 million-person increase, nearly 20 percent came in five key swing states — Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

The common thread between those five states? All of them had gone regularly for Republicans, at least before 2008. In the seven elections between Jimmy Carter’s win in 1976 and Obama’s election, Democrats only won four out of 35 contests in those five states. But they carried all five in 2008.

In addition, in every state but Florida, President Obama improved on Al Gore’s 2000 showing by between 7 points and 12 points — far better than his 4.6 percent overall improvement nationwide.

In other words, these states are trending in Democrats’ favor. And the Latino population growth is both the reason that has happened and the reason it could continue if Republicans don’t do something about it. If the Latino population keeps growing and voting Democratic, there’s little reason to think these states won’t get bluer.

Beyond those five swing states are three other states with fast-growing Latino populations that Democrats hope to put in play in the near future.

The next line includes two states that Democrats hope to target at the presidential level: Arizona and Georgia. And perhaps most important — and potentially game-changing — is the situation in Texas.

While the five swing states mentioned above combined for about 20 percent of the Latino population growth over the last decade, another 20 percent came in Texas alone, and about 7 percent came in Arizona and Georgia.

In the latter two states, Democrats have flirted with investing real resources after a decade in which minorities have accounted for most of the growth. In each state, non-Hispanic white voters dropped by six points to below 58 percent of the total population.

As white voters trend downward toward 50 percent of the population (and at this rate, it will happen by 2020 or 2024 in both states), Democrats should have a real chance in states where Obama already passed the 45 percent threshold in 2008.

Whites in Texas, meanwhile, are already less than a majority. And the rapid Latino growth there has Democrats licking their chops for the day where they may have a shot at the state’s 34 electoral votes.

Democrats are definitely a couple cycles (at least) away from competing in the Lone Star State, but that day isn’t as far off as one may think. This state experienced the biggest population growth in the country over the last decade, and two-thirds of it came in the Latino community.

By the 2020 election, it’s quite possible that the state will feature more Latinos than whites and whites could comprise less than two in five Texans.

Adding Arizona, Georgia and Texas to the electoral mix would throw 59 solidly GOP electoral votes into the mix, and surely change the electoral college calculus for years to come.

Conflicting signals about Rubio: Throughout much of Tuesday, news outlets including the Washington Post reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was not being vetted for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential slot.

By the end of the day, Romney made a point to clarify that Rubio was, in fact, being vetted.

What happened in between?

Whatever the real situation, it only made sense to continue having Rubio as part of the process.

First, he’s just beginning the launch of his book — a book that becomes significantly less interesting if people don’t think he might be their next vice president.

And second, he’s the only Latino in contention. And at a time when the GOP is fumbling for its response to President Obama’s decision to exempt young illegal immigrants from deportation, taking the only Latino in contention out of contention isn’t a great move.

In other words, keeping Rubio as part of the process was a no-brainer by the end of the day. But that doesn’t mean he’s any likelier to be Romney’s VP pick.

Rubio is also the only candidate that Romney’s campaign has said is being vetted; besides that, it has said basically nothing about the process. Which suggests this was a move that was forced on Romney’s campaign.

Fixbits:

Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) presidential campaign raised $1.8 million in May — not an insignificant number for a campaign that has stopped campaigning.

The House plans to hold a vote on whether Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt of Congress.

People don’t know who either Rubio or Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who like Washington National Bryce Harper is a Mormon, invokes Harper’s now-famous “That’s a clown question, bro” line.

The Republican National Convention is set to name longtime Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) aide Kyle Downey as its press secretary. Downey is currently communications director at the Senate Republican Conference, which Thune chairs.

The Koch brothers have reached a settlement with the Cato Institute over control of the think tank.

Must-reads:

What haunts Rob Portman” — Andrew Rafferty, NBC News

Michigan is looking rosier to Romney” — Ashley Parker, New York Times

 
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