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As Republicans Prepare to Fight Executive Action, Latino Voters Are Fired Up to Defend It

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New Gallup approval numbers and a growing body of polling demonstrate that President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration are overwhelmingly popular among Latino voters.  As Republicans hold hearings today that unofficially kick off their attempts to block and overturn this sensible step forward on immigration, the warning signs for the GOP’s 2016 political future are already visible.  

The new numbers from Gallup’s weekly tracking poll show that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration have reignited his popularity among Latino voters.  As Roque Planas captures in the Huffington Post, “President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics shot up 10 points to 68 percent after he announced his administration would offer deportation relief to an estimated 4.4 million undocumented immigrants…His approval rating among Latinos has hovered in the fifties since May of this year, dropping to a low point of 44 percent in the first week of September,” which was right after the announced delay on executive action.  The Gallup approval numbers reinforce the findings of recent Latino Decisions polling that found that 89% of Latino voters support the President’s actions and overwhelmingly oppose Republicans’ attempts to obstruct the Administration’s new plans by filing lawsuits (74%) or restricting funding (80%).

Meanwhile, the Gallup poll also shows that the President’s approval rating among all voters has not gone down as some predicted, but rather has gone up – five percentage points since early November.  Also, according to a recent CNN/ORC poll, 72% of Americans believe the policy changes are either “about right” (50%) or “not far enough” (22%), while 26% say it goes “too far.”  Sixty percent of Americans in the CNN/ORC poll say Republicans should not sue to try to stop Obama’s immigration plans, and 76% say they should spend their time trying to pass a comprehensive reform bill rather than trying to stop the President from acting. 

As Alan Gomez writes in a USA Today piece titled, “Democrats poised to lock up Hispanic vote,” the combination of the President’s executive action and the impending overreaction and attempts from Republicans to overturn this sensible step forward could consolidate Latino voters’ support for Democrats – and mean big political trouble for the Republican Party up and down the ballot in 2016 and beyond.

Not only would the White House be out of reach to the GOP if the Republican presidential nominee repeats Mitt Romney’s historically low performance among Latino voters, but the 2016 Senate map poses an imposing challenge for Republicans, especially if they alienate Latino voters any further.  As Charlie Cook recently wrote regarding the 2016 Senate map, Republicans will “have 24 Senate seats up, to only 10 for the Democrats.  Seven of those 24 GOP seats are in states that President Obama won in 2012, and five are in states that he won by 5 points or more.”  Republicans will need to defend Senate seats in such Latino-heavy states such as Arizona (Sen. McCain), Florida (Sen. Rubio), and Illinois (Sen. Kirk).

Speaker Boehner and Republican strategists with an eye toward 2016 should read all of Gomez’s column, which we excerpt below:

There are few times in U.S. history when an entire segment of the population suddenly lines up behind one political party.  African-American voters were generally split until President Truman desegregated the military in 1948.  Then they started flocking to his Democratic party.  After President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African-Americans have voted overwhelmingly Democratic … Now, as the nation soaks in President Obama’s order to legalize up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, and Republicans devise ways to block it, I can’t help wondering whether we’ve reached another such moment in history.

… Obama’s move to protect undocumented immigrants is unquestionably a boom for Democrats with Hispanic voters.  A poll by Latino Decisions found 89% of Hispanic voters support the president’s decision.  The numbers were so one-sided that a colleague worried about whether to publish results that resembled those from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s preferred polling firm.

But that’s exactly the point: It’s difficult to overestimate what Obama’s executive order has done to rally Hispanic support.

Nearly half of Hispanic voters know an undocumented immigrant, so for them, it’s personal.  I can tell you from countless conversations with Hispanic voters that even those who don’t know undocumented immigrants still consider a politician’s treatment of them as a driving factor in their decision-making.

…If the new Republican-controlled Congress comes back next year and passes a comprehensive bill that both fixes the legal immigration system and humanely addresses the fate of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the USA, the party will have an argument to make to the fast-growing Hispanic population.

If they don’t, and instead spend the next two years fighting Obama’s plan, they may ensure the loss of another chunk of the American electorate.”