The Hispanic Challenge and Opportunity for Republicans
Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network jointly surveyed Hispanics who voted in the 2012 Presidential election in four critical states: Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. The results make clear the size of the hole Republicans have dug among Hispanic voters over the past eight years. At a time of growing Hispanic influence in the electorate, Mitt Romney received the lowest percentage of the Hispanic vote of any Republican presidential nominee in a two-candidate election since Watergate.
Some argue that Hispanics have been voting Democratic for years, that there is little Republicans can do to change the trend, and that trying to do so will split the Republican base. That position is belied by the facts, most recently in 2004 when President George W. Bush achieved 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, the highest in history for a Republican presidential candidate, while simultaneously generating the second largest turnout of the Republican base voters in the history of exit polling.
It is also the route to political irrelevance in national elections. Mitt Romney won a landslide among white voters, defeating Barack Obama by 59 to 39 percent. In the process he won every large segment of white voters, often by double-digit margins: white men, white women, white Catholics, white Protestants, white old people, white young people.
Yet that was not enough to craft a national majority. Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.
To be competitive nationally in the future, Republicans must do better among non-white Americans, especially Hispanics and Asians. If Republicans achieve 40 percent or more of Hispanics nationally, they can elect conservative Republicans to national office. Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects.
These four surveys demonstrate the potential for conservative candidates in four very different Hispanic electorates, and the short and long-term steps that can improve Republicans’ standing in the Hispanic community. The project surveyed 400 registered Hispanic voters in each of the states who voted in the 2012 presidential election. Each respondent was interviewed by a bilingual interviewer and was offered the option to complete the survey in English or Spanish. Since these are surveys of Hispanic American citizens who vote in elections, Hispanics in these surveys are older, have reached a higher level of education, more likely to speak English, and more likely to be born in America than those in surveys of all Hispanic residents.
We will mine these surveys for insights for some time, with results posted at resurgentrepublic.com and hispanicleadershipnetwork.org. But following are some key highlights.