Analysis: Not Courting Minorities May Doom GOP

If Republicans don’t make inroads with minority voters, they may run from behind.

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Reid Wilson
May 10, 2012, 8:10 a.m.

Demo­graph­ics are des­tiny. This much, in Amer­ic­an polit­ics, is true. But we rarely ap­pre­ci­ate the pace of the ra­cial and eth­nic change hap­pen­ing throughout the coun­try. To step back and see the broad­er, long-term pic­ture is to re­cog­nize that, while we’re an evenly di­vided coun­try now, we may be close to a tip­ping point after which the en­tire land­scape will change.

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If re­cent elect­or­al and pop­u­la­tion trends hold, Demo­crats need only wait a few pres­id­en­tial elec­tion cycles un­til they be­gin every White House con­test as clear, even­tu­ally even over­whelm­ing, fa­vor­ites.

That’s the con­clu­sion of a new re­port from Lin­coln Park Strategies, a Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ing firm in Wash­ing­ton. A Demo­crat­ic firm pre­dict­ing Demo­crat­ic wins may not sound like news, but their reas­on­ing has strategists on both sides con­vinced that un­less Re­pub­lic­ans start mak­ing ser­i­ous in­roads in minor­ity com­munit­ies, the party is doomed to run from be­hind.

Cur­rent Census Bur­eau es­tim­ates say the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion will grow by about 61 mil­lion people over the next 18 years, to 373 mil­lion. That growth will come largely among minor­it­ies; the bur­eau be­lieves the na­tion’s His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion will grow by 63 per­cent, the num­ber of Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans will in­crease by 27 per­cent, and the Asi­an-Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion will in­crease by 55 per­cent. At the same time, the num­ber of whites in Amer­ica will rise by only 4 per­cent. Those num­bers point to a much more di­verse na­tion: Today, about 64 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is white. By 2030, that fig­ure is pre­dicted to shrink to 56 per­cent.

That’s fright­en­ing news for Re­pub­lic­ans, a party that has had little suc­cess win­ning over minor­ity voters in re­cent years. In a pres­id­en­tial year, an 8-point drop in the per­cent­age of white voters is enough to move moun­tains — or at least purple states.

At the mo­ment, Demo­crats can count on at least 165 elect­or­al votes in base Demo­crat­ic states, where the av­er­age level of Demo­crat­ic per­form­ance is high­er than 55 per­cent, as cal­cu­lated by Lin­coln Park Strategies. The party also has an ad­vant­age in states with an­oth­er 86 elect­or­al votes, where av­er­age Demo­crat­ic per­form­ance is between 52.5 per­cent and 55 per­cent. Re­pub­lic­ans can count on 143 elect­or­al votes from their own base states and an­oth­er 53 from lean-Re­pub­lic­an states, leav­ing 91 votes in sev­en pure swing states, where neither party’s av­er­age can­did­ate is pro­jec­ted to win more than 52.5 per­cent of the vote.

Dis­pro­por­tion­ate minor­ity pop­u­la­tion growth will mean sub­stan­tial changes to the elect­or­al map by 2032. Twenty years from now, in­creased minor­ity pop­u­la­tions in Nevada, North Car­o­lina, Geor­gia, Ohio, and Iowa have the po­ten­tial to move those states to­ward the Demo­crats, giv­ing the party 274 base and lean elect­or­al votes, ac­cord­ing to the Lin­coln Park Strategies re­port — more than a can­did­ate needs to win the White House.

The chan­ging face of Amer­ica hints at what might be ahead for Demo­crats, but there’s no guar­an­tee any of the be­ne­fits will ma­ter­i­al­ize. After all, there re­mains a big gap between the per­cent­age of eli­gible whites who are re­gistered to vote (78 per­cent) and eli­gible minor­it­ies who are re­gistered (67 per­cent of Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, 53 per­cent of Asi­an-Amer­ic­ans, and just 43 per­cent of His­pan­ics, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 Pew His­pan­ic Cen­ter study).

“Demo­crats have a rare op­por­tun­ity to har­ness a demo­graph­ic ad­vant­age over the next two dec­ades,” the Lin­coln Park Strategies re­port states. “However, demo­graph­ics are not guar­an­teed votes. Demo­crats should not rest as­sured that these votes are com­ing to them auto­mat­ic­ally.”

Stefan Hankin, one of the au­thors, elab­or­ated: “Let’s go with the as­sump­tion that Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t go­ing to be com­pletely stu­pid. People like Jeb Bush and Karl Rove have been talk­ing about the party’s prob­lems with His­pan­ic voters.”

In­deed, a num­ber of prom­in­ent Re­pub­lic­ans are aim­ing to im­prove the party’s im­age among His­pan­ics through a con­glom­er­a­tion of poll­sters and party strategists called Re­sur­gent Re­pub­lic.

“We are not stu­pid. We did not flunk arith­met­ic — we can count. And we will ad­apt, soon­er rather than later,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP poll­ster in­volved with Re­sur­gent Re­pub­lic.

The Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee has taken steps to ap­peal more dir­ectly to His­pan­ic voters, hir­ing sev­er­al re­gion­al His­pan­ic-out­reach dir­ect­ors and a na­tion­al co­ordin­at­or.

If Re­pub­lic­ans make in­roads among His­pan­ic voters, their Elect­or­al Col­lege situ­ation will im­prove markedly, the ana­lys­is found. After all, George W. Bush won a second term in of­fice in part by col­lect­ing 44 per­cent of the His­pan­ic vote. If Re­pub­lic­ans equal that achieve­ment, the Demo­crat­ic ad­vant­age by 2032 would be much smal­ler: 258 elect­or­al votes would be in the base or lean-Demo­crat­ic cat­egory, with 165 in the base or lean-Re­pub­lic­an camp and 115 as pure toss-ups.

Speed­ing up the change would re­quire Demo­crats to per­form well among the one demo­graph­ic group whose sup­port for them has dropped: white voters. Even as­sum­ing lower His­pan­ic sup­port, just a 2-point in­crease in the amount of sup­port Demo­crats are able to win from white voters would put 274 elect­or­al votes in the base or lean-Demo­crat­ic column by 2032.

But if demo­graph­ics are des­tiny, the num­bers are mov­ing in Demo­crats’ dir­ec­tion. The GOP has a dec­ade or more to change those num­bers and its re­la­tion­ships with minor­ity com­munit­ies. Re­pub­lic­ans will ig­nore strategists and lead­ers like Ayres, Rove, and Bush at their own per­il.



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