The Koch brothers strongly back immigration reform. So it should be with little surprise one of their brainchilds to support immigration reform, LIBRE, argues it can occur under a GOP administration. Traditionally smaller government, socially conservative and pro-liberty LIBRE often finds itself on the side of Democrats when it comes to immigration. But, with time they argue, the GOP can win Hispanics and become more supportive of immigration reform.
Democrats are admittedly skeptical. They point to their party’s traditional strength with this voting bloc. Obama won 71% of Hispanics in 2012 and 80% of all nonwhite voters. They further assert the GOP’s anti-immigration stances will continue to turn off Hispanic voters. But these arguments suffer from several weaknesses their proponents may not want to admit.
First, it is debatable whether Obama’s performance among non-white voters in 08 and 012 is transferable to another candidate. Especially old, white candidates like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. This coalition certainly did not transfer to many Democrats in 2010 and 2014. For example, Jon Cornyn in TX won 47% of Hispanics while David Perdue in Georgia won 42%. According to LIBRE Corey Gardner won 45% of the Hispanic vote in his race though this probably inflates his numbers.
Sean Trende notes that Republicans can easily win the Presidency in 2016 and possibly hold the Senate if they merely return to George Bush’s 2004 showing among non-whites. That year exit polls showed Bush won 40% of Asians, 45% of Hispanics (probably a bit high) and 11% of blacks. Bush also won 57% of whites. Whites increasingly flocking to the GOP means the party can increasingly work on courting non-white voters. Democrats seem to be banking on the fact the Democratic coalition is built on ideology and not an individual candidate (Obama).
Another weakness with the assertion that GOP stances on immigration weaken their standing among minorities is that 2014 proved this argument is not always true. GOP strength among Hispanics in 2014 (detailed above) shows the party can make inroads with these voters on other issues. Indeed, a Washington Post analysis found Hispanics are actually trending more Republican than other non-white groups. Further, Pew found in a post-2012 vote analysis that the more Hispanics become educated and integrated into US culture the more they vote Republican.
Thirdly, recent GOP efforts to contact and court minority voters has seriously lacked in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Only after these elections did the GOP seem to realize their weakness and make concerted efforts to contact and turn out GOP leaning minorities. LIBRE is not actively promoting the GOP as a party. They are merely introducing conservatism to the community. However, case studies of success GOP outreach efforts abound. Mike Coffman in 2014 sung a different tune on the issues in a recently redrawn and far more competitive/diverse district. He won by 9 points against a strong opponent. Barbara Comstock in VA-10 fought off a spirited challenge for Rep. Frank Wolf’s seat by going into minrity majority communities.
Lastly, groups like LIBRE and GOP leaders with a national presence are starting to talk about issues that appeal to minority communities. For Hispanics this might be Bush’s embrace of reform. For blacks it might be Rand Paul’s call for the decriminalization of society. As for Asians it seems the GOP stressing school reform would be a good place to start.
None of this is to say the GOP will win non-white voters in 2016 or come anywhere close. But the party does not need to win a majority of these voters; at least not yet. The party merely needs to get close or return to Bush’s 2004 levels while retaining Romney or Bush level support with whites. As for Democrats their weakness with whites is unlikely to get better. That means they must keep their voting levels with minorities like Hispanics intact. It is debatable whether a non-Obama candidate can accomplish such a feat.