Latinos didn’t cost Mitt Romney the election

December 13, 2012

Republicans have a major Latino problem, but it didn't cost them the 2012 election.

According to a Fix review of election results, Mitt Romney would have needed to carry as much as 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in order to win the Electoral College -- a number no Republican presidential candidate on record has been able to attain and isn't really within the realm of possibility these days.

Latinos did push President Obama over the top in several key states -- including Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania -- that he would have lost without them. (Obama also would have lost the popular vote without Latinos.)

But it was a given that Obama was going to win a higher share of their votes; what mattered was the margin. And in order for Romney to have won the presidency, he would have needed to perform far better than any previous Republican presidential candidate.


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami earlier this year. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Romney lost the Latino vote by a larger margin than all but one recent GOP nominee, 71 percent to 27 percent.

A slightly better showing among Latinos would have allowed him to win closely decided Florida, but Romney lost most other states with heavily Latino populations by significant margins.

He lost Nevada by more than 6 percent of the vote. In order to win that state, he would have had to up his share of the Latino vote there from 24 percent to 42 percent.

He lost Colorado by more than five points and would have needed increase his showing among Hispanics from 23 percent to 42 percent.

He lost New Mexico by more than 10 points and would have needed 43 percent of the Latino vote, compared to the 29 percent he got, to win that state.

Adding those four heavily Latino states to Romney's basket gets him to 253 electoral votes, still shy of the 270 he would have needed to win the election.

In order for Romney to get to 270, he also would have needed to win 42 percent of the Hispanic vote in Pennsylvania -- up from the 18 percent that he got.

So, in each of the states detailed above, Romney would have had to take 42 or 43 percent of the Latino vote. That seems reasonable; after all, exit polls showed President Bush taking 44 percent of Latinos nationwide in 2004 (though some have suggested that number was inflated).

But given that Latino voters in Pennsylvania lean more Democratic than they do elsewhere -- Bush, for example, took just 32 percent of the Hispanic vote in Pennsylvania in 2004, despite taking 44 percent nationwide -- Romney would have needed a very difficult 24-point improvement, more than doubling his share of the Latino vote.


And if you extrapolate that 24-point improvement to the nationwide vote, it would suggest Romney would also be carrying a slight majority of the overall Latino vote (51 percent).

Now, these calculations are not perfect. A candidate's nationwide share of the Latino vote doesn't necessarily coincide with how they perform in a given state.

And none of this is to say that the Latino vote isn't important; it is, and it will be even more so in the future, given the fast-growing nature of the Hispanic population.

But it's clear that in order to win the 2012 election and offset his performance among other demographics, Romney would have had to turn in a nearly unattainable performance with Latinos. Or at least one that no Republican presidential candidate -- including Bush -- could touch.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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