Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the party's leading evangelists for immigration reform, warned on Sunday that the GOP faced certain doom in 2016--and beyond--unless they dealt with the issue now.
"[If]f we don't pass immigration reform, if we don't get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn't matter who you run in 2016," Graham said on NBC's Meet The Press. "We're in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don't do that, it really doesn't matter who we run in my view."
Graham is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill currently under debate in the Senate this month. Although supporters are confident they'll pass it before the July 4 recess, its prospects are uncertain in the GOP-led House. Speaker John Boehner has said he wants to pass some kind of immigration bill before the end of the year, but conservatives are leery about providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their opposition could prove too much to overcome.
A record 11.2 million Latino voters went to the polls in 2012 and President Obama won their vote by a 71-27 margin over Mitt Romney, per exit polls. An election eve poll by Latino Decisions estimated that Obama won 75-23 nationally and performed even better in key swing states like Colorado, where he garnered 87% of the Latino vote.
While their votes alone didn't put Obama over the edge in his re-election, Republican strategists are worried the problem will grow drastically worse over time as the disproportionately young Latino population comes of voting age. Underscoring their concerns, a report by the Census Bureau last week indicated that whites are a minority of Americans under-5 years old for the first time in history, with a similar shift projected to occur among Americans under-18 in five years.