Many analysts believe that winning 40 percent of the national Latino vote will be sufficient for a Republican to carry the presidency in 2016. In fact, that’s as farcical as Donald Trump making it to the White House.
The 40 percent threshold assumes that the Bush-Kerry demographics of 2004 are still in effect even though that election was 12 years ago.
Using data from our polling, exit polls from recent cycles and Census numbers, we created a model that shows the threshold needed for the Republican presidential candidate to win enough of the Latino vote to capture the White House, which today stands at 47 percent.
It’s roughly double what Mitt Romney garnered in 2012. In Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada — the four competitive Latino-heavy states — the threshold varies from 42 percent in New Mexico to 47 percent in Florida, while in Ohio it is 43 percent and 46 percent in Virginia. Romney took just 23 percent of the national Latino vote three years ago.
This model accentuates the tension between the GOP’s long-term viability and the short-term goals of the party's presidential aspirants. Sensing that the party's Latino deficit is too large or that any moderation on immigration may undermine their ability to win the nomination, a number of candidates have already tacked to the right on immigration.
Others have been unwilling to criticize the most strident anti-immigrant voices emanating from the field. In fact, only long-shot candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seems to grasp the damage that the party's latest fount of anti-immigrant sentiment, Trump, is inflicting on the party's prospects in 2016 and beyond.
Meanwhile, just one Republican, Ben Carson, spoke at last month's annual meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Latino leaders are taking note. Janet Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza, went so far as to call out the Republican Party for its failure to repudiate Trump's comments.
Now, our model assumes that the Latino electorate will grow at rates observed in prior elections. But as 2014 demonstrated, Latino participation cannot be taken for granted as many continue to feel alienated from the political process, particularly in light of Washington's failure to deliver comprehensive immigration reform.
Moreover, even in presidential elections, Latino registration and turnout lags behind population share. Mobilizing and enlarging the Latino electorate is particularly acute for Democrats. Indeed, it’s because of the overwhelming support of Latino voters that the Democrats are better positioned in many of the swing states needed to cobble together the 270 Electoral College votes necessary for the presidency.
Republicans know what they need to do to turn around their prospects with Latino votes. Take the GOP’s "Growth and Opportunity Project" report from 2013, which stated: "Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door." Meanwhile, a 40-percent threshold becomes a 47-percent threshold and every month some 70,000 Latinos celebrate their 18th birthdays.
Matt Barreto is co-founder and managing partner of Latino Decisions. David Damore is a senior analyst at the polling and research firm. Their full analysis is available here.