Saturday, November 24, 2012

Republicans and the Hispanic Vote

Two articles getting some attention: Kim Strassel, at the Wall Street Journal, "The GOP Turnout Myth," and Byron York, at the Washington Examiner, "Hispanics favor Dems but didn't decide election."

I don't think Hispanics are naturally conservative (as Charles Krauthammer argued recently, erroneously), although I do think that Republicans can pick up enough Hispanics to reduce the Democrat electoral advantage in key swing states. Strassel's essay points that out:
In Florida, 238,000 more Hispanics voted than in 2008, and Mr. Obama got 60% of Hispanic voters. His total margin of victory in Florida was 78,000 votes, so that demographic alone won it for him. Or consider Ohio, where Mr. Romney won independents by 10 points. The lead mattered little, though, given that black turnout increased by 178,000 votes, and the president won 96% of the black vote. Mr. Obama's margin of victory there was 103,000.

This is the demographic argument that is getting so much attention, and properly so. The Republican Party can hope that a future Democratic candidate won't equal Mr. Obama's magnetism for minority voters. But the GOP would do far better by fighting aggressively for a piece of the minority electorate.

And that, for the record, was the GOP's real 2012 turnout disaster. Elections are about the candidate and the message, yes, but also about the ground game. Republicans right now are fretting about Mr. Romney's failures and the party's immigration platform—that's fair enough. But equally important has been the party's mind-boggling failure to institute a competitive Hispanic ground game. The GOP doesn't campaign in those communities, doesn't register voters there, doesn't knock on doors. So while pre-election polling showed that Hispanics were worried about Obama policies, in the end the only campaign that these voters heard from—by email, at their door, on the phone—was the president's.

Often missed in talk of the GOP's "demographics problem" is that it would take relatively modest minority-voter shifts toward Republicans to return the party to a dominating force. The GOP might see that as the enormous opportunity it is, rather than a problem. The key to winning turnout is having more people to turn out in the first place.