After reading dozens of mainstream media newspaper and national magazine stories about the so-called “crucial” Latino November vote, I have sadly concluded that my journalism colleagues either can’t do simple math or have decided to forego fundamental research.
The stories are the same. If presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney expects to persuade Hispanics to support his candidacy, then he needs to begin a significant outreach program effective immediately. On the other hand, if President Obama is counting on as much success with Hispanic voters in 2012 as he had in 2008, he needs to get busy with his own appeal to that bloc.
While both candidates want to do well with all demographic subsections, to repeat ad nauseum that Hispanics will determine the next president is laugh out loud absurd.
To start at the beginning, in the 2010 mid-term election Hispanics represented only 6.9 percent of the electorate. The share of the Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group. Just 42.7 percent of the nation’s Latino population is voting eligible (older than 18) while more than three-in-four (77.7 percent) of whites, two-thirds of blacks (67.2 percent) and more than half of Asians (52.8 percent) are eligible.
If you were advising a presidential campaign would you suggest to your client that he focus on Hispanics, the smallest group of voters, or whites, the largest? The answer is obvious and becomes more crystal clear when you factor in that black voters are predicted to overwhelmingly support President Obama.
Significant Hispanic populations live in only a few states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Florida. Of those eight, only Florida is in play. California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey are solidly Democratic; Texas, Republican.
But let’s assume for the sake of this argument that the GOP decides to embark on the media’s highly touted, specially designed Hispanic platform. Maybe Mitt Romney picks up New Mexico (5 electoral votes). But when those New Mexico Hispanic-targeted sound bites are rebroadcast in Ohio and Pennsylvania on the evening news, Romney would risk losing both states and their 37 total electoral votes. Pennsylvania and Ohio have little immigration.
Even President Obama doesn’t buy the media’s urgent plea to design an especially tailored Hispanic platform. For example, when Obama’s stumps in the mid-Atlantic swing states, he knows better than to promote his reviled DREAM Act, talk up his prosecutorial discretion policy or tout his White House-based illegal alien liaison official. That would turn off the moderate majority.
Compounding the foolish idea of overt Latino pandering is that a recent analysis of Census Bureau data found that Hispanic voter registration has been in steep decline since 2010. As a result, Hispanics may cast fewer votes in 2012 than they did two years ago. The reason: Hispanics who lost jobs may have moved in search of new work without registering to vote at their new address.
Another variable escapes the clueless media. Hispanic voters are American citizens. And citizens of Hispanic ancestry often have loftier, more patriotic interests than the Washington D.C. pro-immigration lobby or the extreme Democratic left wing. During the 2005 Arizona vote on Proposition 200, the measure that would bar illegal aliens from collecting social services, exit polls indicated that 47 percent of Hispanics voted in favor. Even in Arizona, the nation’s immigration tinderbox, Hispanics rejected unchecked alien entitlements.
Even though the press remains in the dark, President Obama knows that November turns on the voters who elected him in 2008, moderates and Independents from both parties. To win, the president must recapture them. Ethnic identity politics is a risky game that often backfires.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)