With little doubt I can say that Democrats had the better night November 6, 2012. They retained the WH, likely added at least one new seat in the Senate and gained a few seats in the House. But while Democrats may be revelling in their victory they should bear in mind who was the biggest winner last night. No, it was not Barack Obama, nor Harry Reid or even John Boehner. Rather it was the junior, Cuban-American Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio.
Digging through the exit polls we find that the electorate of 2004 Republicans hoped for did not materialize. Rather, an electorate similar to 2008 came out and handed the President a second term. Whites only made up 72% of the electorate according to exit polls this year while minority voters, primarily Asians and Hispanics, grew by 1% of the electorate. As most polling indicated heading into the race Obama won these voters by almost 80%. Not even Romney’s commanding 59%-39% advantage among the 74% of the electorate that was white could overcome this.
For the GOP this puts them in a serious bind. Election 2012 was probably the last time the GOP could realistically hope to win a national race with just the white vote. Perhaps if Obama did not have a 4 year campaign machine running non-stop Romney could have done it. But the Obama turnout machine pulled him through. Many of these Obama voters, through exit polls, did not express enthusiastic support for him. Rather they seemed to view him as the better option on their issues and the lesser of two evils.
Enter stage right, Marco Rubio. No other minority Republican has the name ID or the national profile to change the course of GOP dialogue to minorities than Rubio. His victory in 2010, winning a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida in a three-way race, shows he has appeal within the Hispanic community. And should Rubio run in the 2016 GOP Primary it will be hard for him to be hit on the issue from the right because his stances on immigration have been firm, principled and conservative. If he is the GOP nominee in 2016 it will be hard for Democrats to hit him on the same issue for he has called for the GOP to get comprehensive immigration reform done and he also has supported a limited DREAM Act package.
Rubio will not just have ethnicity working for him in 2016 he also will have a personal background and history that should connect with Hispanics and other minorities struggling to fit into our melting pot. His story was on display at the RNC in September when he told the crowd that he was the son of a poor immigrant family that came to America with only $10. His family scrapped and saved, as did he went he got a job and entered politics because he cared about his community, family and country. That simple background and message coming from the lips of a moderately conservative Hispanic Presidential candidate could dispel all the Democratic notions that the GOP is racist and uniformly white.
Even if the GOP does not capture the White House in 2016 the demographic forces that Democrats believe will squeeze the GOP into extinction are unlikely to continue forever. Hispanic growth has surged in GOP states such as Georgia and TX, but these states exit polls show they vote more Republican than their national counterparts. In Florida, Cuban-Americans have always been more conservative than other Hispanics. In the African-American community, even as these voters reelect Democrat after Democrat, many are fleeing the slums and failed results of the blue social model. Detroit or Philly anybody?
Election 2012 should be a wake-up call to the GOP that no longer will dominating the white vote ensure electoral victory. Democrats in the future are unlikely to have the turnout machine Obama had but current demographic and political trends certainly favor them if something does not change. For the GOP that change could be spearheaded by Senator Marco Rubio and hopefully President-Elect Rubio in 2016.