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Republicans Reflect on Latino Voter Loss, Immigration, and Red Meat

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As the pundits move away from discussing how Latinos
turned out
in favor of Democrats at historic levels in 2008 to analyzing
why this shift occurred, Republican analysts are chiming in: the GOP encouraged the kind of “red-meat” xenophobia within its ranks that blocked immigration reform. And it backfired, bigtime.


writer Eugene Robinson, in a column highlighting
why Republicans must shift directions to stay viable electorally
, stated:

“Here’s the truly ominous trend for the Republicans: Hispanic voters nationwide
chose Obama over McCain by 67 percent to 31 percent. This is a huge shift from
2004, when George Bush won an estimated 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, and the
trend was instrumental in moving states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado
into the Democratic column last Tuesday. How did the Republicans manage this
feat? By blocking sensible immigration reform and appealing to the red-meat
conservative base with rhetoric that could only be taken as xenophobic.
Hispanics constitute the nation’s biggest and fastest-growing minority.
Apparently they have no place in the “center-right America” of Republican

The Latino vote
comprised 9% of the electorate nationwide in 2008, a figure that totals over 11
million voters. This turnout represents a jump of over 3 million voters since
2004, when 7.6 million Latinos cast ballots, and is approximately double the
Latino turnout of 2000. Ominously for Republicans, the Latino vote broke
overwhelmingly Democratic in 2008. After supporting Democratic candidate John
Kerry by a 56-44% margin against George W. Bush in 2004, Latinos gave Democratic
candidate Barack Obama their support at a 67-31% margin against John McCain. As
the New York Times showed
, Latinos’ movement towards Democrats was
one of the biggest demographic shifts from 2004 to 2008.

As Latino
polling expert Sergio Bendixen stated:

“The debate over immigration started driving Hispanic voters toward the
Democratic party, and the economic black hole clinched it.”

A prominent Republican, Senator Mel Martinez
(R-FL), stated on NBC’s
“Meet the Press”

“The very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate
set a very bad tone for our brand as Republicans…there were voices within our
party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic
rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we’re going to be relegated to minority

To top it off, William McKenzie,
editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, examined
the subset of the Latino Evangelical vote
and concluded:

“It’s safe to
say enough Latino evangelicals marched away from the GOP to matter in states
such as Florida and Colorado. Barack Obama won there after George W. Bush
prevailed in 2004.” McKenzie quoted prominent Latino Evangelical leader, Rev.
Samuel Rodriguez, who said “Immigration, and immigration only, cost Republicans.
The Pat Buchanans drove Latino evangelicals away with scary rhetoric about
immigration during Congress’ recent debates on the subject.” McKenzie concluded
his column by stating, “the GOP can’t keep narrowing itself, forcing out
minority voters. The party either expands or shrinks into irrelevancy.”

But the clincher is, it wasn’t just the
Latino electorate who voted in favor of common sense and humane immigration
policies. Many non-Latino voters refused to support leading anti-immigrant
crusaders such as Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4), Thelma Drake (VA-02), Lou Barletta
(running for Rep. Kanjorski’s seat in PA-11), and Virgil Goode (VA-5) and, in
many other close races across the country, supported candidates with more comprehensive approaches to immigration reform.

The Republican Party
is at a cross-roads. Either it cuts out the red-meat xenophobia and gets on the right side of the immigration issue, or it stands in danger of being relegated to “minority status” (a fairly ironic term, all things considered) for the foreseeable future.