One of the stunning stats from the exit polls of the presidential election involved the Latino vote. President Obama got 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was only able to snag 27 percent. As I’ve noted before, that’s quite a comedown for Republicans from the 44 percent President George W. Bush received when he was reelected in 2004.  

At the Bipartisan Policy Center’s summit in New Orleans last week, Republican strategist Whit Ayres mentioned another statistic that snapped me to attention.

Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18.

Just to be clear, that’s 50,000 U.S.-born people every month for the next 20 years who become eligible to vote. Ayres cited this stunning statistic that was highlighted in a study of the Hispanic electorate by Resurgent Republic, a conservative nonprofit research group on whose board he sits. That report also highlights the promise and the peril for the Republican Party in reaching Latino voters.

Of the 10.9 million Latinos registered to vote, 51 percent of them are Democrats and 18 percent are Republicans. But when you view them through an ideological prism, 54 percent of Hispanics identify as “conservative” while 39 percent say they are “liberal.”

It should also be pointed out that the universe of eligible Hispanic voters stands at 21 million. If the GOP hopes to earn the votes of the 10 million-plus eligible but unregistered voters out there, it not only must have an economic message, it must also have a clear position on immigration. A majority of Latino independents want a humane and coherent policy that brings people out of the shadows and provides a path to citizenship. If the GOP can find a way to get to yes on that, it might be able to get back to Bush-level support.