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GOP Needs More Latino Votes than Ever, But the Leading GOP Contenders Are Headed in Wrong Direction

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New analysis from Latino Decisions suggests the eventual Republican presidential nominee will need 47% support from Latino voters nationwide in order to win the majority of the popular vote in a two person race.  Meanwhile, new reminders from the campaign trail underscore that Republican candidates are headed precisely in the wrong direction from that target number.

Based on the most likely composition and party preference of the non-Latino electorate in 2016, the detailed modeling analysis by Latino Decisions finds that the GOP nominee will need the votes of 47% percent of Latinos nationally to win a majority of the popular vote, with similar “Latino voter thresholds” in likely battleground states of CO, FL, NV, NM, OH, and VA.  Even if the GOP wins a historically high level of the white vote – 60%, a level not reached by Republicans in a presidential election since the 1980s – the Republican nominee will have to win 42% of the Latino vote to win the popular vote.  The scenarios and results are described fully in this Latino Decisions blog post and detailed slide presentation.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party and its leading 2016 contenders seem intent to act in ways that will make achieving that target extremely difficult to achieve, as the below examples highlight:

  • Scott Walker Dusts off Hardline Talking Points and Reinvents Immigration History in Exchange with Immigrant Family: As he prepared to run for President, Walker lurched to the right on immigration and now embraces a mixture of incoherent and radicalimmigration policy positions (see here for a recap).  Yesterday in Plainfield, IA, Walker’s newly-minted hard line on immigration was on view during two detailed exchanges he had with an immigrant family from Wisconsin who is hoping to stay together via either executive action program DAPA or immigration reform legislation.  Among the most notable of Walker’s answers, captured in this back and forth on videos (here and here) and recapped by national media tracking the exchange, was his willingness to reinvent history on his opposition to immigration executive action.  A press statement from Governor Walker’s office issued last December, titled “Governor Scott Walker Joins Lawsuit to Block Unilateral Executive Action,” makes clear his embrace of Wisconsin’s decision to join the state lawsuit seeking to block last November’s executive action programs from going into effect.  Yet when asked by the 13-year old Leslie Flores, “why are you trying to break my family apart,” Walker said, “I’m the governor, I don’t have anything to do with it,” and later, “I’m not blocking it, I’m governor, I don’t have anything to do with the federal government.”  During the back and forth with Walker, Leslie Flores “had tears rolling down her cheeks throughout the exchange,” as the Washington Postdescribed and as the videos document.  In addition to the remarks reinventing his role in blocking executive action  programs, Walker relies on talking points such as “secure the border first” and “you have to follow the law, follow the process” during his exchanges with the Flores family.
  • Jeb Bush’s Backtrack on Citizenship Captured & Criticized by Jon Ralston: A new column from Nevada’s preeminent political journalist, Jon Ralston, assesses that Jeb Bush is “pandering to nativist wing” and is trying to “pose as the adult in the room but occasionally be willing to be a child in the sandbox.”  Ralston recaps that Bush’s rationale for backtracking from support for a pathway to citizenship to his current embrace of legalization without access to citizenship is because, as Bush told Fox News, “It has changed because the climate has changed, and this is the consensus view that allows conservatives to get in the game.”  Ralston reacts with incredulity to that admission, noting, “Really? THAT’s the reason to change your view?  The political environment?  Speak softly but pander with a loud voice?”  Ralston also notesthat Bush recently said, “There are people that are preying on people’s legitimate fears and anger … What I don’t get is why people aspiring to the greatest office in the land are preying on their fears, preying on their anger.  That I don’t understand,” and writes in response, “But isn’t Bush responding to those same fears and exploiting them by suddenly taking a path to citizenship off the table?  Is it less damaging than Trump’s manifest idiocy or Cruz’s inflammatory statements?”  Of note, Bush’s backtrack on citizenship joins his recent pledge to end DACA and DAPA in the first three months of his presidency and his embrace of the “secure the border first” excuse as troubling positions for a supposedly pro-reform candidate to adopt. 
  • Marco Rubio Pretends He Hasn’t Flip-Flopped on Immigration: Marco Rubio tries to portray himself as serious and consistent on immigration reform – see this recent exchange with Jake Tapper on CNNfor an example of Rubio’s self-portrayal on immigration.  Yet Rubio’s notion that he has been consistent on immigration doesn’t pass the laugh test.  He championed comprehensive immigration reform before he opposed it.  After helping to draft the comprehensive immigration reform bill with the Gang of 8, a bill that passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, falling poll numbers and resistance from House Republicans led him to reject the Senate approach.  Now he endorses a piecemeal approach to immigration reform that includes embracing the “secure the border first” excuse for inaction on the heart of the challenge: what to do with 11 million undocumented immigrants who are settled in America.  We call it a prescription for inaction because Rubio’s argument breaks down as follows: we can’t reform immigration until the border is secure, but since at least some people still get across it illegally, we can’t declare the border is secure, therefore we can’t move forward on immigration reform.  Rinse and repeat.  As the Wall Street Journal has editorialized: “Republicans who claim we must ‘secure the border first’ ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn’t border security.  It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform.”  In a timely new piece titled, “Facing the Facts on Illegal Immigration,” Al Hunt of Bloomberg marshals a range of evidence to show why the border security excuse flies in the face of the real statistics and actual situation on the ground regarding the border.
  • Donald Trump Continues to Tarnish the GOP Brand ImageAs the Wall Street Journaleditorializestoday, the ongoing attention and support for Trump among some conservatives has been “instructive in exposing a growing problem on the political right.  All too many conservatives, including some magazine editors, have been willing to overlook his hucksterism as he’s risen in the polls.  They pretend that he deserves respect because he’s giving voice to some deep disquiet or anger in the American electorate … But today many on the right seem willing to indulge any populist outburst no matter how divorced from reality or insulting to most Americans.  If Donald Trump becomes the voice of conservatives, conservatism will implode along with him.”  The tardy and tepid Republican response to Trump’s racist remarks about Mexicans exposes the party’s weakness on immigration – a lack of leadership and political will to stand up to the anti-immigrant forces in their midst (Lindsey Graham and John McCain excepted).