In 2004, John Kerry won Hispanics by less than 10 points, according to exit polls (though this number is disputed), with Hispanics making up less of the electorate as well. Part of Obama's strength came from policies and from perceptions of the Republican Party and its candidate. But part of it was the candidate -- a candidate who won't be on the ballot in 2016.
The Post reported Friday that a group called LIBRE, which is heavily funded by the conservitarian Koch brothers, has been doing grass-roots outreach to Hispanic voters in key states for the past several years. The outreach isn't overtly political, but is instead aimed at gently introducing conservative priorities while assisting with the daily challenges of Hispanic residents (not all of whom immigrated legally). And that has Democrats nervous.
It should. Pew Research has been tracking party identification by racial and ethnic group for years. ("Hispanic" is an ethnic identity which overlaps with racial identities; in the data below, assume that "whites" and "blacks" refers to non-Hispanic members of those racial groups.) When you look at how frequently those groups identify as Democrats (or lean Democratic if they identify as independents) and compare the group to the overall trend, you get a sense for how solid each party's grip might be.
With Asian voters quickly moving left, Hispanics are the non-white group that's least-heavily Democratic. Hispanics still heavily identify as Democrats, but less so than Asian and black respondents. And the group is trending slightly more Republican.
LIBRE's goal isn't to completely reverse Hispanic support for Democrats. Instead, it's to offer a reason for those voters to vote at George W. Bush 2004 levels, not Barack Obama 2012 ones.
It's probably also to identify Hispanic voters who can be turned out to vote. Hispanics vote far less frequently than other racial groups. Turnout among Hispanic citizens is lower in presidential years than turnout among whites is in midterms. Identifying sympathetic voters and boosting turnout among them can shift the overall margin for Republicans quickly.
To be clear, though, LIBRE's small-ball outreach probably pales compared to its big-picture politicking. In 2014, it ran "issues" ads bad-mouthing Obamacare, including in a closely contested Florida congressional race. The Hispanic Democrat in that seat lost -- to an Hispanic Republican.
That sort of thing can have a much larger effect on the population at large. But probably nothing, as Republicans learned and then ignored after 2012, can change minds as much as addressing the problem of immigration. We've noted before what happened to President Obama's approval rating among Hispanics after he announced his first executive action on immigration. It's the blue zone on the graph below.
That positivity might not transfer over to whomever the Democratic (Hillary) nominee (Clinton) is in 2016. With a huge Republican primary process getting underway, it's unlikely that Republicans will create an immigration policy that will lure Hispanic voters. But there's a reasonable chance that the GOP will nominate a Latino as their presidential or vice presidential candidate -- or perhaps another, Spanish-speaking Bush.
Meanwhile, LIBRE's out there doing good deeds and collecting names, and hoping that 2016 is, at least, closer to another 2004.