[OPINION] The Latino Vote In 2012 And The Depth Of The GOP Problem

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By Manny Diaz and John Zogby

Former Governor Mitt Romney ran a very competitive race for the Presidency, but the anatomy of his defeat marks a real turning point for the Republican Party. The white vote is shrinking and an African-American candidate can win nationally with less than 40 percent of white support.

As we consider demographics, let’s understand that, as a percentage of the total U.S. population, today’s Baby Boomers are 81 percent white; our children, the First Globals, are 61 percent white and very young grandchildren are only 49 percent white. So winning the “non-white vote” is essential for a party’s candidate to stay competitive. What is especially problematic for the GOP is that its share of Latino support keeps shrinking since 2004 and that today even fewer Latino voters consider themselves conservative than they did a decade ago.

Let’s review some numbers. Latinos were 4 percent of 92 million total voters in the 1992 Presidential election; 5 percent of 95 million voters in 1996; 6 percent of 105 million in 2000; 8 percent of 123 million in 2004; and 9 percent of 133 million in 2008. Votes are still being counted, but exit polls suggest that Latinos accounted for 10 percent of the total of about 130 million voters in 2012. While a GOP candidate has had to rely on approximately 35 percent of the Latino vote to win, Mitt Romney received only 29 percent (compared to George W. Bush’s 40 percent in 2004).

We have aggregated the Zogby Polls from 2012 to get a granular picture of this voting group. This is a first look at 2,246 Latino voters polled in 2012 and the picture reveals some terrible news for the GOP and its future. Nearly three in ten Latino Republicans voted for President Barack Obama and just over one in three self-described conservatives voted for his reelection. Two in three men and nearly three in four women supported Mr. Obama. Significantly, just about two thirds of Latinos in the “Swing States” voted for the President.

At least two in three of every income group and 70 percent of Weekly Walmart Shoppers voted for the reelection of the incumbent. Even the fast-growing evangelical voters in the Latino community gave him 60 percent of their support — joining 74 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of Protestants.

Seventy-two percent of households with someone in the military voted for the President, joining 73 percent of union households and 68 percent of self-described “investor class” voters.

One in four Latino voters identified themselves as NASCAR fans and 64 percent of these generally conservative voters pulled the lever, checked a box, or touched a screen for the President.

Married or single, young or old, college degree or none, big city or rural town — the GOP was simply crushed.

Republicans have suffered a similar fate twice before — in the mid-nineties following Proposition 187 in California. But the party was able to cut its losses with more moderate figures like Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki in New York; then of course with the moderate Governor of Texas, George W. Bush. Despite Bush’s impressive showing in 2004, the party, repudiating its own President, used the 2006 congressional elections to trash immigration reform. As a result, they took a drubbing losing 30 seats, while gaining only 28 percent of the Latino vote. But this time there appear to be few moderate candidates with enough appeal to save the party.

The trajectory of the gains in the total numbers of Latino voters is only matched by the remarkable tin-ear the Republican Party has for this community. If conservatism keeps its demonization of immigrants and immigration reform as one of its pillars, look for the GOP to put itself out of business. While much has been made of the 2010 election cycle when Democrats lost a huge number of seats, three states with competitive U.S. Senate seats drew huge Latino turnouts — Colorado, Nevada and California — and gave the Democrats three big wins.

The 2012 election was a tipping point. Elections still have to be won one at a time, but the numbers are simply not favorable to the GOP. Remember that Mr. Obama also won 64 percent of the growing Asian-American vote and 92 percent of the growing African-American vote, as well. And watch for three burgeoning new Blue States to develop between now and 2016 — Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

Manny Diaz is the former mayor of Miami, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and author of Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America, One Neighborhood, One City at a Time.

John Zogby is founder of the Zogby Poll, senior analyst with Zogby Analytics, and author of The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream.


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