Temporary Limits on Latino Political Clout

At The Upshot today, Nate Cohn has one of those pieces you might want to archive for future reference: a systematic analysis of the factors that diminish Latino clout in this year’s key congressional contests. They mostly involve citizenship status, which reduces voting eligibility; age, which reduces likelihood to vote; and geographic concentration, which locates them disproportionately in non-competitive states and districts. So despite representing an estimated 17% of the U.S. populations, Latinos are likely to represent 2.7% of the voters in this year’s key Senate races and 5.4% in House battleground races.

But Latinos are a bigger factor in presidential elections (7.7% of the vote in 2012 presidential battleground states), and the citizenship and age impediments to voting will soon rapidly decline:

Most of today’s Hispanic children were born in the United States; 94 percent are citizens. As they reach voting age, the Hispanic share of eligible voters will begin to catch up with the Hispanic share of the population, although it may take a generation or longer. The Hispanics who are already eligible to vote will become more likely to participate with age.

A lot of Republicans clearly think they have plenty of time to repair their image among Latinos before it become a real millstone in national elections. But I dunno. Twenty years have passed since Pete Wilson’s close association with Proposition 187 poisoned the GOP with California Latinos. It hasn’t gotten any better.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.