And that might be true … if the “recent Republican norm” wasn’t an utter disaster:
A new poll from Pew Research Center found Hillary Clinton with a whopping 42-point lead over Trump among Hispanic registered voters, 66 percent to 24 percent. It’s a grim number for Republicans — but actually a little less than the 48-point lead Barack Obama had over Mitt Romney in Pew polling from October 2012, and also less than the 43-point lead Obama had over comprehensive immigration reform champion John McCain in July 2008.
Romney went on to lose to Obama by 44 points (71 percent to 27 percent) among Hispanic voters in 2012, and McCain lost by 36 points (67 percent to 31 percent) among Hispanics in 2008.
Well … yeah. Notice a pattern? Republicans lost those elections in part because they didn’t compete for Hispanic votes. In 2004, George Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote on his way to a three-point win over John Kerry. McCain lost 13 points off of Bush’s performance among Hispanics, and it wasn’t because of policy differences. Romney lost 17 points off of Bush’s high-water mark. Also worth noting: the improvement over 2012 is a bit outside the margin of error, but the comparison to 2008 is better described as a virtual tie rather than an improvement.
For some reason, the Trump campaign sees a continuation of this failure as some sort of vindication:
“For all the bellyaching by GOP party elites, Trump is roughly where Romney was in 2012 and McCain was in 2008 among Hispanic voters,” said Kellyanne Conway, the respected Republican pollster who has recently joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser, in an email exchange.
Again — that’s the problem. Hispanics made up 8% of the electorate in 2004; it was 10% in 2012. Hispanic citizens make up a growing percentage of younger voters (noted in another Pew poll from April), which means that their slice of future presidential elections will only grow larger. Maintaining what now appears to be the absolute floor of Hispanic support will only ensure that Republicans become less and less competitive than they were in 2012 as time goes on.
York shrugs at whether it’s possible to do any better:
Of course, from the standpoint of the GOP’s loss in 2012, the whole idea for 2016 was to do better with Hispanic voters. Trump isn’t doing that, or he’s just barely doing it. But it’s impossible to say whether any other candidate in the 2016 field, including Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio, would be doing appreciably better. The Republican Party’s problems with Hispanic voters pre-date Trump, and may be more consequential to the party’s standing with those voters than anything Trump has done so far.
Nonsense. Bush nearly won the demographic just 12 years ago, meaning that most of the voters in this demographic who voted for him are still around. Republicans just stopped engaging Hispanic voters at the ground level, opting instead for national messaging and a one-sized-fits-all approach to Hispanic voters … when they bothered to approach at all. Romney, for instance, barely spent any money at all on Spanish-language ads, let alone connecting with the diverse communities that make up the Hispanic demographic.
In late April, I reminded people of the failures noted in my book Going Red:
The key question is this: Can Republicans change? … In researching my book Going Red, I spoke with people in minority communities who echoed those findings, but went further. Too often, Republican campaigns treat these communities almost as destinations for anthropological research rather than as communities to engage and embrace. In the past two election cycles, the GOP dispensed with the kind of peer-to-peer politics at which Barack Obama excelled in favor of national messaging that sounded too much like lectures.
And too often, the GOP remained ignorant of the specific Hispanic communities it tried to address, offering the same message to voters of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Venezuelan, and Central American descent. Voters in these ethnic groups have many common interests, but they’re often as different as white Americans of Italian and Irish descent. Plus, much depends on where in the country they live. Hispanics in Jefferson County, Colorado, for instance, have roots that go back generations, and as such are not focusing on immigration as much as they are issues at play in their lives now. State Rep. Jon Keyser calls them “the four Es” — the economy, education, energy, and the environment. “I hope that we don’t have presidential candidates that come to Jeffco and just want to talk about illegal immigration,” Keyser told me.
People in these communities want honest engagement, even when potential disagreements arise. E.J. Otero, a retired Air Force colonel who became the first Hispanic to win a major-party nomination to Congress from West Tampa, expressed his frustration when fellow Republicans don’t show up to compete. “You’re not going to [win] as a Republican and have a TV ad and say Vote for me because I’m a great guy,” Otero explains about West Tampa, “and not go to their local meetings in their neighborhoods. It all comes down to the handshake.”
Finally, Republicans had a real opening to regain the ground lost over the last eight years. Barack Obama had put together a ground-up operation that focused appeals to Hispanic communities, but Obama won’t be on the ticket this year. If the Republican candidate is still stuck at Romney-McCain levels with Obama out of the picture, then that’s an even larger failure — and one that bodes ill for 2016 and beyond.