Thursday, October 11, 2007

Latino vote may decide 2008

A recent report (pdf) from Simon Rosenberg’s New Democrat Network (NDN) sheds light on the changing political dynamic emerging from the immigration debate. The report projects a Democratic victory in next year’s elections as the likely result of the immigration debate on Hispanic voting patterns.

NDN highlights the growth of the Spanish-language consumer market (p. 10):

In 2006, driven by millions of Spanish-language viewers on Univision, the 2006 the World Cup Soccer Finals had twice the viewership of the average game in the NBA finals.

The Univision Democratic Presidential Debate drew 4.6m viewers, more than the 4.3m average of all other Democratic Presidential debate this year (this of course is drawing from a total audience of around 10 percent of the US population).

As a result of Bush and the GOP’s strategy since 2000 to specifically target the Hispanic vote with Spanish-language advertising, the GOP nearly doubled its market share with Hispanics, from 21% in the 1996 elections to 40% in the 2004 elections. That changed in 2006, with immediate results: the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote dropped to 30%.

Indications are that it hasn’t stayed at that level in the succeeding year. I’m guessing the GOP will be lucky next year to retain its 1996 share of 21%.

From the report (p. 26):

Citizenship applications have increased 61 percent over last year. Anecdotal evidence is that they are registering very heavily Democratic.

This would be a reasonable response, given the partisan, anti-immigrant tone of the recent debate. In addition, a fee increase in July which raised the standard naturalization fee from $400 to $675 led many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of permanent residents to naturalize. In the current political climate, many of them will vote, and vote Democratic.

And Republicans aren’t giving newly naturalized citizens much reason to support them (p. 26):

All of the major GOP Presidential candidates, with the exception of John McCain, have adopted a hard-line anti-immigrant approach, including the opposition to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. No GOP candidate attended the recent NCLR conference. Only one candidate, Duncan Hunter, attended the NALEO conference.

Univision has announced that their GOP debate, scheduled for September 16th is being “rescheduled.” To date only one GOP candidate, John McCain, has announced his intent to participate.

However, LatinaLista notes that in last night’s GOP debate, all the candidates but Tancredo carefully avoided the topic of immigration, perhaps recognizing their electoral vulnerability stemming from the issue.

But simply letting their already publicized anti-immigration views stand without rebuttal will not be enough in the face of redoubled outreach by Democrats to Hispanics. And the GOP base will not permit the candidates to remain silent for long. To get the nomination, candidates will have to beef up their restrictionist bona fides, which may then doom the nominee in the general election.

NDN looks at the changing composition of the Florida electorate as one example of the changing dynamic (p. 29):

Huge new waves of Hispanic immigration in Florida – largely Puerto Rican and Central and South American – has left the long-powerful Cuban-Americans a minority of the statewide Hispanic vote.

. . .

With an increase of participation of two groups much more Democratic than the original exiles - 2nd generation Cuban-Americans and those who came after 1980 – the Cuban vote itself is becoming less Republican.

. . .

Taken together, what all this means is that Florida Hispanics are no longer majority Republican, and may in fact now be majority Democratic. In 2006 Senator Bill Nelson won the Florida Hispanic vote 58%-41%, and Jim Davis, while losing in the non-Hispanic electorate 53%-44%, tied with Hispanics 49%-49%. As there are more than a million Hispanics in the Florida electorate, this type of big shift can mean a shift of hundreds of thousands of votes over time, clearly enough to swing a state decided by a mere 500 votes in 2000.

The report breaks down possible Electoral College scenarios (p. 30):

Democrats have won 248 Electoral College votes or more in 4 consectutive Presidential Elections.

Winning AZ, CO, NM and NV in 2008 gives the Democrats 277 EVs. Winning Florida alone gives them 275. Together they put Democrats at 304 even without Ohio.

What this means is that if in 2008 Republicans are denied these 4 swing Southwestern states, or Florida, they will have to win a state they have not won since the 1980s. While possible, of course, it is not something they can count on. Simply put there is no reasonable GOP roadmap to victory in 2008 that does not require them to win these 5 heavily Hispanic states, something that will now be much more difficult given the degradation of the GOP brand in the Hispanic community in the aftermath of the immigration debate.

A recent quote from Michael Gerson sums up the report’s conclusions nicely (p. 38):

I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable forRepublicans ... Some in the party seem pleased. They should be terrified.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that the only candidate that is risking his political career for the Hispanic and Latino population is John McCain. i think that the least that the Hispanic and Latino community can do is to return the and help us vote your people in an opportunity at a life and an opportunity at a dream.