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GOP Pollster Highlights Why Republicans’ Lurch to the Right on Immigration is Self-Defeating Politics

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As Two Parties Head in Opposite Directions on Immigration, Whit Ayres Op-Ed Shows Why Demographics Are Working Against GOP Nominee

Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will host a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas with Dreamers and other young Nevadans, with immigration expected to be a major focus of the discussion.

Nevada is the site of one of the best examples of the new politics of immigration. During his 2010 reelection campaign, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) defied many pundits and won reelection handily by leaning into immigration issues and maximizing Latino voter turnout in the process.  Although we’ve had our doubts, we are becoming cautiously optimistic that Hillary Clinton will embrace this new political reality, continue to lean into the immigration issue and run as an assertively pro-immigrant candidate. Tomorrow will provide an important signal.

Meanwhile, the entire Republican presidential field is tacking to the right on immigration – either rhetorically, substantively or both – while Republicans in Congress are doing their best to ensure that the GOP’s brand image remains tarnished with Latino voters.

With the two parties heading in opposite directions on immigration, Republican pollster Whit Ayres offers a reminder of how the demographic challenges for the Republican nominee are growing more acute with every election cycle.  In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “A Daunting Demographic Challenge for the GOP in 2016,” Ayres lays out a range of statistics that show why Republicans’ push to alienate the fastest-growing groups of new voters is the height of self-defeating politics.  Among the key excerpts of the Ayres op-ed include:

“Republicans stand a slim chance of winning the presidency in 2016—unless they nominate a transformational candidate who can dramatically broaden the GOP’s appeal. That assertion may seem incongruous in light of stunning Republican triumphs in the past two midterm elections. But success in 2014 no more indicates the outcome of the 2016 presidential election than victory in 2010 foretold the presidential winner in 2012.”

… The challenge is obvious: Republicans can’t win a presidential election by trying to grab a larger piece of a shrinking pie. That helps explain why Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. If America’s demographics still looked the way they did in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was voted into office, John McCain and Mitt Romney would have won the White House.

… Hillary Clinton has proven to be a more attractive candidate than Mr. Obama among whites in culturally conservative regions of the country. Assuming she wins the nomination, if she can push her support among whites up to 42%, she will need only 68% of the nonwhite vote to win the presidency. That is far lower than even the 73% of nonwhites John Kerry carried in 2004.

Republicans, on the other hand, must find a way to appeal to more nonwhite voters. If the GOP nominee in 2016 wins the same share of the white vote that Mr. Romney did—59%—then he or she will need 30% of nonwhites to be elected. That is far greater than the 17% of the nonwhite vote that Mr. Romney won in 2012, or the 19% John McCain won in 2008, or the 26% George W. Bush won in 2004.

Looked at another way, if the Republican nominee only manages to hold Mr. Romney’s 17% among nonwhites, then he or she will need 65% of whites to win. Only one Republican has reached that mark in the past half century: Ronald Reagan in his 49-state landslide sweep in 1984. Even George W. Bush’s comfortable re-election in 2004 with 58% of whites and 26% of nonwhites would be a losing hand in 2016.”