Bush’s Hispanic Support Is Falling
President George Bush is losing Hispanic support — and if this Washington Post report proves correct he’s losing it from a variety of Hispanic groups whose preferences now clash with his own party’s conservative base:
Hispanic voters, many of whom responded favorably to President Bush’s campaign appeals emphasizing patriotism, family and religious values in Spanish-language media in 2004, are turning away from the administration on immigration and a host of other issues, according to a new survey.
At the same time, separate polls show that conservative white Republicans are the voting group most hostile to the administration’s support for policies that would move toward the legalization of many undocumented immigrants.
Cumulatively, the data underscore the perils for Bush and his party in the immigration debate churning on Capitol Hill, one that threatens to bleed away support simultaneously from the Republican base and from Hispanic swing voters, whom Bush strategists had hoped to make an important new part of the GOP coalition.
Remember that if you recall the talking heads on the Sunday morning TV shows and some of the columnists a few months ago, immigration reform surfacing before the elections was supposed to be an issue that was going to help the GOP. Karl Rove had reportedly long sought to siphon off Hispanic voters from their preferred Democratic party. Bush had been highly popular among Hispanic voters and increased is chunk of Hispanic support as President over the years.
Now it looks as if those efforts are vanishing as surely as weight loss after stopping the latest fad diet:
A survey of 800 registered Hispanic voters conducted May 11-15 by the nonpartisan Latino Coalition showed that Democrats were viewed as better able to handle immigration issues than Republicans, by nearly 3 to 1: 50 percent to 17 percent. Pitting the Democrats against Bush on immigration issues produced a 2 to 1 Democratic advantage, 45 percent to 22 percent.
The poll findings indicate that Republicans are likely to have a hard time replicating Bush’s 2004 performance among Latino voters. According to 2004 exit polls, Bush received the backing of 40 percent of Hispanic voters, up from 34 percent in 2000. Other studies have put the 2004 figure somewhat lower, although there is general agreement that Bush made statistically significant gains from 2000 to 2004.
And what if — despite all of the angry rhetoric on immigration, the pro and against demonstrations, the fact that some of those who are here illegally also have lots of relatives who are here legally who vote — there is absolutely no change in the GOP slice in 2006? More bad news:
Even if the GOP does maintain Bush’s margins among Latinos in 2008, another study found that Democrats are likely to achieve a net gain in future elections, simply because Hispanics are growing as a share of the electorate.
Ken Strasma, a Democratic strategist who specializes in using demographic data to target potential voters, and the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study concluding that, if past voting patterns hold, the growing Hispanic population means that Democrats will increase their 2004 vote totals by nearly half a million votes in 2008.
If the 2004 election had been held in an electorate based on the one forecast for 2020, with all other factors held constant, the higher Hispanic vote would have given Democrat John F. Kerry a slight victory in both the electoral college and the popular vote, the study added.
Meanwhile, the Post cites another study that confirms that one of Bush’s biggest obstacles to retaining his own gains among Hispanic is a good chunk of his own base:
In a survey by the Pew Research Center, conservative Republicans were by far the most opposed of any demographic group — 83 percent — to providing social services to illegal immigrants. Conservative Republicans were, in addition, the only group in which a majority supported a constitutional amendment barring citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States. They also supported the activities of citizen militias known as Minutemen that attempt to guard the border.
Once again Bush and the GOP bigwigs may have to choose: do they cater to and follow their base? Or do they seek to build a larger coalition? Another question becomes whether any political bleeding can be reversed or if the trends cited by the Post piece necessarily have to continue.
The White House and Rove are most likely now thinking about 2000 and how when it came to Hispanic votes they couldn’t not feel the impact of Pete Wilson. They seemingly made strides to offset Wilson’s negative impact on the GOP — strides apparently now wiped out.