Driving Away A Growing Constituency, Cont’d

DRIVING AWAY A GROWING CONSTITUENCY, CONT’D…. We talked a few weeks ago about the risk Republicans are facing on immigration politics — the party feels the need to satisfy the demands of the GOP’s far-right base, while hoping to cultivate ties to Hispanic-American voters, a growing American constituency that’s often considered a “swing” group of voters.

It’s a fine line to walk, and as recent developments in Arizona have shown, Republicans aren’t exactly pursuing both approaches with equal care.

We’re now starting to see the results. Hispanic voters in Colorado and Arizona, for example, are moving quickly to support Democratic candidates.

Today, a new NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows a similar trend at the national level, where “Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers.”

For example, 68% of Latinos approve of Obama’s job (compared with 48% of overall respondents and 38% of whites), and they view the Democratic Party favorably by a 54%-21% score (versus 41%-40% among all adults and 34%-48% among whites). And their views of the Republican Party? In the poll, the GOP fav/unfav among Latinos is 22%-44%.

What’s more, Latinos think Democrats would do a better job than Republicans in protecting the interests of minorities (by 58%-11%), in representing the opportunity to move up the economic ladder (46%-20%), in dealing with immigration (37%-12%), and in promoting strong moral values (33%-23%). The only advantage they gave Republicans was in enforcing security along the border (31%-20%). And Latinos remain a sleeping — yet growing — political giant: 23% of them aren’t registered voters (compared with 12% of whites and 16% of blacks).

As recently as 2004, Bush/Cheney was making real inroads with Hispanic voters, and there was some evidence to suggest the GOP would remain fully competitive with Democrats with this constituency for years to come.

In the years since, the Latino vote went from being up-for-grabs to solidly Democratic — in large part because Republicans decided to stop trying to reach out.

The GOP can take some solace in the poll results, since they’re getting a small bump in support from white voters who like the hard-line approach adopted in Arizona. But over the long term, Republicans have to realize the demographic trends do not work in the GOP’s favor.

For what it’s worth, Hispanic support for Democrats may fall if immigration reform fails this year, and voters blame the White House (even if it’s Republicans and conservative Dems who are responsible for killing the bill).

It creates a very strong incentive for the GOP — fight like hell to prevent immigration reform from succeeding. If voters blame the president, Republicans win. If voters blame the GOP, they’ll be largely in the same position they’re in now.