Yesterday, Republican pollster and likely Marco Rubio presidential pollster Whit Ayres made a compelling case for why the GOP needs to improve its standing with Latino voters in order to win in 2016. However, despite the demographic and electoral imperatives Ayres outlines, the Republican Party and its 2016 presidential field seems intent to follow the mistakes of Mitt Romney by running to the right in the primary season and hurting their general election chances with Latino and other growing segments of the electorate in the process.
In comments at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast yesterday, Ayres said that the eventual 2016 Republican presidential nominee will need to receive greater than 40% of the Latino voter in order to win back the White House. Per National Journal’s recap:
“Ayres predicts that Republicans will need to win ‘somewhere around 30 percent, almost a third, of the nonwhite vote overall’ to take back the White House in 2016. With black and Asian voters trending sharply away from the GOP, Ayres says claiming a significant share of Latinos is the key to reaching that 30 percent mark. ‘Unless you count on the Republican getting Ronald Reagan-like numbers among whites,’ Ayres said, ‘you’re going to have to be somewhere in the mid-forties with Hispanics.’ (Reagan won 66 percent of whites en route to his historic 49-state victory in 1984.)”
In comments reported by Roll Call, Ayres also noted that a Republican presidential nominee capable of making inroads with Latino voters would also be a boon to GOP Senate races in 2016 – a cycle that presents a challenging map for Republicans and their need to maintain control of the Senate. Republican-held Senate seats up for re-election in 2016 include those in Latino-heavy states such as Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, as well as in states that have consistently voted Democratic in presidential elections, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Given these larger political stakes, it is all the more notable that 2016 Republican candidates and the GOP as a whole are lurching right on immigration and a range of issues. After blocking the best chance to enact comprehensive immigration reform in a generation last Congress, Republican candidates ran hard to the anti-immigrant right in the 2014 midterm elections and the GOP has spent the first months of its congressional majority seeking to undo President Obama’s executive actions to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The entire 2016 Republican field has come out in opposition to executive action on immigration, while voicing opposition to “amnesty” and support for “secure the border first” language (which we read as Republican-speak for “comprehensive reform never”).
In 2014 election eve polling from Latino Decisions, 20% of Latino voters said they planned to vote Republican in the 2016 presidential election, while 52% were committed to the Democrats. This leaves approximately a quarter of Latino voters – 28% – undecided or somewhat up for grabs. Despite the opportunity, the early returns from the campaign trail show that Republicans seem intent to squander Ayres’ advice and do their best to alienate Latino voters. For example, the universal opposition to immigration executive action is against the wishes of 9 out of 10 Latino voters, according to Latino Decisions polling.
Jill Lawrence connects Republicans’ embrace of the Indiana “religious freedom” law—which would discriminate against LGBT Americans—with the GOP’s support for anti-immigrant policy and politics. Writes Lawrence, the GOP’s positioning on the Indiana law is “about as forward-looking as the revived Republican hostility to immigration reform. Forget about the future, it doesn’t even acknowledge the world as it exists today.”
In a column titled, “Republicans Are on a Collision Course with the American Electorate,” the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank also talks about the fact that Republican 2016 hopefuls are disconnected from the broader electorate. Using the Indiana law as the latest example, Milbank writes, “The good news for Republicans: They have a path to victory in 2016. The bad news for Republicans: They are not on that path.”
Exactly. “On immigration, equal treatment, and a range of issues Republicans are out of step with the general electorate. They’re going to have a hard time reconciling this fact once its time to face these voters,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.