Spin Cycle

12.13.12

GOP Pollster: Party Running Out of White Voters

Whit Ayres says alienation of Hispanics could relegate Republican Party to irrelevance

A new study by a Republican pollster says the GOP is on “a route to political irrelevance” unless the party can find a way to repair its battered image among Hispanic voters.

The survey by veteran Republican strategist Whit Ayres and the Hispanic Leadership Network’s Jennifer Sevilla Korn minces no words, saying the party’s candidates have simply “run out of persuadable white voters.”

That the GOP is facing this kind of demographic time bomb is hardly breaking news. It was obvious during a presidential campaign in which Mitt Romney called for illegal immigrants to “self-deport” that the contenders, with the exception of Newt Gingrich, were trying to outflank each other on the right. But to have a respected party voice like Ayres assess the situation so harshly has got to be an eye-opener.

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Latino protesters march by the hotel where US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is scheduled to attend a fundraising event in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 18, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images)

Majorities of Hispanic voters, the study says, believe “the Republican Party does not respect the values and concerns of the Hispanic community. Combined with the overwhelming view that the Democratic Party, rather than the Republican Party, better understands the needs and concerns of Hispanic voters, the results of this question should be sobering for Republican candidates at every level.”

Romney actually won a landslide among white voters, beating President Obama 59 to 39 percent. But with the GOP having maxed out among whites, “trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition," Ayres and Korn write.

“Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects,” they say. The party’s prospects would improve if its presidential candidates could reach the 40 percent mark. George W. Bush captured 44 percent of Hispanics in 2004.

The state-by-state totals are even more devastating. Hispanic voters say Republicans don’t respect their concerns and values by 51 to 44 percent in Florida, 54 to 40 percent in New Mexico, 59 to 35 percent in Nevada, and 63 to 30 percent in Colorado. But they say the Democratic Party does respect their values and concerns by 67 to 28 percent in Florida, 72 to 23 percent in New Mexico and Nevada, and 76 to 20 percent in Colorado.

(Separately, the GOP has dipped to a 30 percent favorability rating in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, with people offering the following descriptions: “Bad,” “weak,” “negative,” “uncompromising,” “need to work together,” “broken,” “disorganized” and “lost.”)

One bright spot is that some rising Hispanic politicians are far more popular than their 2012 standard bearer. Marco Rubio has a 49 to 37 percent favorable/unfavorable rating; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is at 53 to 35 percent favorable; Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has a 47 to 27 percent rating.

Still, it’s clear the GOP brand is damaged. Check this out: Asked how the parties fare on working to protect women’s rights, 72 percent of Hispanic voters in Colorado picked the Democrats, while 14 percent favored the Republicans.

None of this is going to change overnight. As the Ayres report says, “Numbers do not lie, and growing Hispanic influence in American life will only continue to grow.”