Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Latino Vote in the 2012 Election

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Coming into this year’s election, political pundits and analysts spoke at great length about the importance of the Latino Vote in key battleground states, including Nevada. It became clear that the politicians too understood the importance of this voting bloc as they spent ample amounts of time in battleground states speaking to Latino voters and ran many ads on Spanish channels. Despite both parties heavily courting this key demographic, Latino voters this year proved once again to be loyal to President Obama. The President won the Latino Vote by 71 percent to 27 percent, according to exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Research Center. Obama’s national vote share among Hispanic voters is the highest seen by a Democratic candidate since 1996, when President Bill Clinton won 72 percent of the Hispanic vote. The Pew Hispanic Research Center also found that Hispanic voters make up 10 percent of the electorate in the United States, up from 9 percent in 2008.

The Hispanic voting bloc only seems to be growing in the United States. In Nevada, Latino voters now make up about 18 percent of the electorate and Obama won the Latino Vote in the state by 70 percent to 25 percent. This margin in Nevada was very similar to Obama’s lead among Latinos nationally. As the number of Hispanic voters continues to increase in the coming years, Republicans are now facing a big problem, they either have to win over much of this voting bloc or accept what some say may be a transition to a minority party in the United States.

Republicans are accepting their current crossroad but indeed have plans to cultivate a stronger relationship with the Hispanic voters that they hope will be effective in 2016. Let’s take a closer look at how the GOP is planning to court Hispanic voters.

Republicans are stating that their party actually has a lot of the same values as Hispanic voters. Newly elected Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz argued that, “the values in the Hispanic community are fundamentally conservative, but you’ve got to have candidates that connect with that community in a real and genuine way and communicate that the values between the candidate and the community are one and the same.”

Gary Segura of Latino Decisions said that it was Republican’s immigration policy that caused the Republican Party to “leave votes on the table.”

The current political climate is crucial for Republicans. The party must decide whether they will shift towards the middle or instead try to appeal to growing demographic groups, like Latinos, while staying planted firmly on the right side of the political spectrum.

Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, seems to believe that a political shift is needed for the Republican party as he said that his party, “needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late.”

However, when taking this approach of a moderate shift, there are still some potential roadblocks for Republicans. Many will look at the past two Presidential election cycles in which relatively moderate Republican nominees fell short, and conclude that the party needs to nominate a true believer willing to stand behind core conservative principles. Republicans need to find a candidate for 2016 that is energized to reach out to new types of voters without abandoning the party’s beliefs. Many have deemed junior senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, as the rising GOP star and a possible candidate to lead the new GOP in 2016.

So, what is the compromise?

John Hudak, of the Brookings Institution, suggests that Republicans move slowly toward positions that hold appeal for groups that voted for Obama this year. Hudak fears that a move too quickly to the middle will alienate loyal conservatives.

Hudak uses the neutralization of social issues as an example. He believes that Republican politicians do not need to, “change your mind. It’s just to not speak your mind. And that way people can think this isn’t that aggressive party anymore, and it opens the door for them to vote for you based on other issues.”

In a battleground state like Nevada, with the worst unemployment rate in the country but also with a fast growing Hispanic population, a middle ground stance by Republicans could allow Nevada voters to set social issues aside and focus more on economic issues.

In the end, the GOP needs to appeal to Latino Voters to remain an active party in the changing demographic of the United States. This year, in general, Latino Voters did not feel a connection with the GOP. Polling shows that Latino voters not only felt they aligned better with Obama on many issues, including jobs and the economy, they also felt the Democratic Party seemed to actually care about getting their votes.

The GOP has four years to find a way to relate to this growing voting bloc. Will it mean saying good-bye to the tea party? Or will the GOP simply have to choose between a stagnant group of older white voters versus a growing group of young Hispanic voters? Only time will tell. But this year Latino voter’s voices were loud, clear and decisive in their overwhelming support of Barack Obama.


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