The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Beyond 2016, the GOP’s Hispanic problem continues

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Pew polling reports:

A record 25.2 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, making up, for the first time, 11% of all eligible voters nationwide. But despite a growing national presence, in many states with close Senate and gubernatorial races this year, Latinos make up a smaller share of eligible voters, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center. . . .
[I]n the eight states with close Senate races, just 4.7% of eligible voters on average are Latinos. Among those states, Latinos make up less than 5% of eligible voters in six. Only in Colorado does the 14.2% Latino share among eligible voters exceed the 10.7% national average. Kansas is the only other state where the Latino share among eligible voters exceeds 5%. As a result, the impact of Latino voters in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate may not be as large as might be expected given their growing electoral and demographic presence nationwide.

Hispanics make up “more than 10% of eligible voters in just three [states]: New Mexico, where Latinos make up 40.1% of eligible voters; Texas, where 27.4% of eligible voters are Latino; and New Jersey, where Latinos make up 12.8% of eligible voters.” None is much of a race this year, although the New Jersey contest has tightened somewhat.

It would, however, be unwise for Republicans to take any solace in these numbers for the long-term viability of the party and for presidential-year election races.

To begin with, low turnout by Hispanics (three-quarters of whom are born in the United States; the rest are naturalized citizens) is generally a function of age. (“In 2014, 33% of Hispanic eligible voters are ages 18 to 29. By comparison, among white eligible voters, 18% are in that age group.”) Not only will the Hispanic population in the foreseeable future be growing, but it will be aging, and therefore increasingly likely to turn out for midterm races.

Second, one reason Republicans are not competitive in some races (e.g. New Mexico and New Jersey this year) may be attributed to the party’s minimal appeal among Hispanic and other minority voters. In presidential election years, low appeal among minority voters effectively means that states with a big chunk of electoral votes are out of reach (e.g. California, New Jersey, Illinois). The problem, even for incumbent senators and House members in presidential years, occurs in states with big Hispanic populations, regardless of whether they are competitive at the presidential level (e.g. Florida, Colorado, Nevada).

Quite simply, if the GOP wants to be competitive in seats sufficient to win the presidency and control the Senate, it will need to broaden its appeal. Doing nothing on immigration reform is a recipe for long-term failure in an increasingly diverse country.