Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available in Spanish here.
Declaring at a Univision awards ceremony that “Donald Trump cannot be president,” Cuban singer Armando Christian Pérez, “Pitbull,” couldn’t have given better advice to politicians from both parties that want to become president: they need to get their acts together.
This past week, analysis from the polling firm Latino Decisions and a Univision poll showed that indeed, politicians need to get their acts together, especially the Republican Party that continues to allow its anti-immigrant faction, personified by Trump, to push away the Latino voters they need to win the White House.
Latino Decisions found that in order to win the presidency in 2016, Republicans would need to win up to 47% of the Latino vote, and not the 40% of the Hispanic vote that for the past decade has been touted as the required threshold for a GOP candidate to enter the White House. In 2004, then-president George W. Bush won 40% of the Latino vote and was reelected over Democrat John Kerry. Bush supported immigration reform with a path to citizenship and although he faced criticism from the ultraconservative wing of his party, his position in favor of this reform, along with other factors, enabled him to gain a significant percentage of the Hispanic vote and secured his victory.
Latino Decisions’ analysis is based on pure mathematics. If the Hispanic population has increased, and so has its share of the population of voters, presumably so has the number of Latino voters that Republicans will need to win the presidential election.
Latino Decisions estimated that 13 million Latinos will vote in the 2016 general elections, 10% of the electoral universe, compared to the 7.4 million Latinos who voted in 2004, when they accounted for 7% of the voting population.
Another factor also plays a role. The older, white Republican vote has been declining, and younger white voters tend to vote Democratic.
According to Latino Decisions, if the Republican candidate wins 60% of the white vote in 2016, they would need to win 42% of the Latino vote to win the presidency. But if the white vote does not exceed the 59% earned by Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, then they would need to win 47% of the Hispanic vote.
The Latino vote in favor of Republicans in presidential elections has been declining. In 2008, Senator John McCain won 31% of the Hispanic vote, and in 2012 Romney won 27%.
The Republican Party has allowed itself to be defined by the wing that is most hostile to immigration reform, and therefore to Latinos: in the House, they blocked the immigration reform plan passed by the Senate in 2013; they have blocked many executive actions by tying them up in the courts; and it appears that Trump is completing that picture by branding Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, offending an entire community and an important electoral sector.
Moreover, the reaction of the other Republican candidates to Trump’s offenses was not nearly as fast as it was this past weekend, after the businessman questioned the heroism of Senator McCain, offending various electoral blocs.
On the Democratic side, candidate Hillary Clinton leads with Latino voters both internally in her party and when she is pitted against various potential Republican nominees.
The Univision poll found that in a potential Clinton-Jeb Bush matchup in 2016, Clinton would win 64% of the Latino vote, compared to just 27% for Bush; and Clinton would gain 66% of the Latino vote over the 25% that Marco Rubio would obtain.
However, we need to remember: polls are a snapshot of a specific moment, and the general election is still sixteen months away. The Democrats, particularly current favorite Clinton, shouldn’t rest on their laurels because anything can happen in sixteen months.
One of the main challenges will be to excite and mobilize Latino voters so that they turn out to the polls. In that department, Democrats have work ahead of them and must not forget that a Latino voter who stays home is a vote for the other party. They must not forget the lessons learned in the 2014 midterm elections, in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, for example. Assuming that Latino voters know a candidate’s positions, and taking their support for granted is not a strategy, but rather a big risk.
Hence the wise advice of Mr. 305, Pitbull: politicians need to get their acts together.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor at America’s Voice.