One of the worst things you can do if you hit an icy patch on the road is overcorrect. But that’s exactly what some of the country’s most high-profile Republicans seem to be doing in response to the complete loss of the Latino vote this election. They’re spinning the wheel on immigration reform, hoping to skid out of demographic danger.
By now you’ve probably heard President Obama won 71% of the Latino vote. Romney got 27%. The Republicans know they need to do better to win those votes.
Just 2 hours after Mitt Romney delivered his concession speech Tuesday night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) made a plea for Republicans to “work harder than ever to communicate [their] beliefs” to the minority and immigrant communities.
That could be an uphill battle. This isn’t the first election in which the majority of the Latino vote went to the Democrats. President Bill Clinton did even better than President Obama. Clinton won 72% of the Hispanic vote in 1996. In other words, this election result is not a new demographic trend.
Just in the last few days, Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain have announced their commitment to reforming immigration laws. House Speaker John Boehner said the day after the election that he wants to find “common ground.”
Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer, former Gov. Haley Barbour, Larry Kudlow and Rupert Murdoch have all voiced a renewed sense of open-mindedness on immigration.
But this is a pretty serious overcorrection for a few reasons:
1. Are Republicans like Graham and McCain ready to sacrifice immigration policy that was clearly codified in their own party’s platform?
2. How will the Republican base react to a softer approach?
3. Will moderation on immigration reform actually win over Latino voters?
That last question might be the most critical for the GOP in the next election. Republicans seem to believe immigration is the one issue they need to address to do better with Latino voters.
Conservative columnist Krauthammer wrote: ”The principle reason they [Hispanics] go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants.”
Not so fast. The Pew Research Center released a fascinating look at Latino voting trends over the last three decades.
The research shows Latino voters supported Democrats in every election since 1980 when the organization began tracking such data. The closest any Republican got to closing the gap was President George W. Bush, and he only narrowed the spread 60% to 40% (the majority still going Democrat) in 2004.
Republicans who focus on immigration in order to persuade Latino voters to their side could be making another treacherous decision on the road to the White House. GOP leaders may be demonstrating once again that they’re not ready to take the wheel.