THE END OF THE DREAM?….Karl Rove has long boasted about constructing an electoral strategy that doesn’t just win elections for Republicans but instead puts them in a permanent majority. A big part of that strategy has been his effort to woo Hispanics ? who tend to be culturally conservative and not as historically bound to the Democratic Party as blacks ? into the GOP fold. George Bush won a sizeable chunk of the Hispanic vote when he ran for governor in Texas, and if the Republican Party could do the same thing nationwide it might well convert America from a 50-50 nation to something more like a 55-45 nation ? with Republicans getting the double-nickel.

Today that dream is in shambles, and in the current issue of the Monthly Rachel Morris reports that talk radio shoulders a big part of the blame:

Until [mid-2005], Rove?s strategy of wooing Latinos without actually doing anything that might offend the conservative base had worked remarkably well?perhaps because his outreach to the base and to Hispanics had advanced along separate tracks. So far, he hadn?t been confronted with anything that might cause these tracks to converge, forcing the disparate elements of the Republican voting coalition towards collision.

The convergence began on right-wing talk radio….Casting around for something to talk about, hosts discovered the Minutemen. Illegal immigration has always been a perennial source of talk-radio outrage, but the Minutemen, with their warnings that terrorists could enter the country via Mexico, set off a veritable storm. Suddenly, the self-styled border patrols, along with their champion in the House, Rep. Tom Tancredo, became fixtures on radio shows and cable TV.

According to a former senior White House official, the administration became concerned by this phenomenon and conducted some research. Staffers listened to hours of talk radio and found that the obsession with illegal immigration on talk radio had appeared virtually from nowhere. ?Two years ago, this wasn?t on the radar screen,? he said. House Republicans, already eyeing the midterm elections, also took note. By then, Tancredo?s immigration-reform caucus had grown to more than 80 members (in 2001, it only had 15).

Live by the sword, die by the sword. But hey ? at least they’ve still got the Voter Vault! Something tells me that’s a pretty short-term advantage, though.