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Probably the biggest political news story from the release of new census data was the growth of the Latino community — and the corresponding political power of the Latino vote. As you’ll see below, reporters and pundits around the country focuses on the political implications of these changing demographics.
It seems the only group of people who are ignoring this development are Republican leaders, who have turned over their Latino outreach strategy to the fiercely anti-immigrant trio of Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Steve King (R-IA). Those “Three Amigos” have been holding a series of anti-immigrant hearings. Apparently under the direction of the Republican Speaker of the House, Smith, Gallegly and King are pushing a strategy that will lead to mass deportation, but they try to conceal the true purpose by calling it “Attrition through Enforcement.”
As pundits and politicos pore over the new census numbers, it’s important to keep in mind that every available poll—and every election to date—has shown that Latino voters are turned off by candidates who espouse anti-immigrant views. Yet, Smith, Gallegly and King are defining their party as vehemently anti-immigrant.
Take a look at the coverage so far. It’s pretty clear that there’s a new conventional wisdom emerging about the importance of Latino voters.
The single most important 2012 political story…: …It’s not in Iowa (more on that below); it’s not in Washington. It’s happening every single day in America – the growth of the Hispanic population. Latinos made up half of all U.S. population growth in the past decade, by far the fastest growing group. Hispanics have nearly doubled to make up 16% of the country. We’ve said it here before, and now with the new Census numbers out it’s worth repeating: Latinos are already a serious political force in America and their influence will only get bigger. And that could be problematic for Republicans on a presidential level, because overwhelmingly right now, they prefer Democrats. Obama won Latinos 67%-31% in 2008, and they made up just 9% of the electorate. In the 2010 exit polls, when Republicans swept Democrats out of the U.S. House, Hispanics still preferred Democrats by a similar 64%-34% margin. And they made up just 8% of the electorate. In fact, look at the states out West with large Hispanic populations and how Democrats performed out West vs. the Midwest. In states with high Hispanic populations, Democrats were able to keep their losses to a minimum, holding on to Senate seats in Colorado and Nevada, keeping California fairly blue and holding on to House seats in Arizona they should have lost. As one Republican operative said to us in April 2010: “We have problems, clearly, with Hispanics,” the operative said. “If we do not manage an immigration bill appropriately, and we alienate Hispanics, Obama’s going to run up his numbers in the 70s [with Hispanics]. That is not a sustainable model to win.”