President Bush can explain his Iraq policies all he wants, but he’ll need more than that to stay in the White House.
Mr. Bush has already alienated a good part of his conservative base with his amnesty for illegal aliens last January, and his party has alienated still more by refusing to support immigration control measures in either Congress or at the state level.
Last week Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a gathering of Democratic Party Hispanic activists that John Kerry can win the election if he has the votes of at least two-thirds of the 3 million new Hispanic voters registered since the last election. [McAuliffe: Hispanics hold White House key, May 16, 2004, Associated Press]
In 2000, Al Gore won 65 percent or so of the Hispanic vote nationally, so if Mr. Kerry can keep that percentage, he’ll win. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to keep it, and there are several reasons why Mr. Bush won’t.
Moreover, the new voters happen to be concentrated in what used to be Republican strongholds—southwestern states like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. They are all small states with few electoral votes, (a total of only 17 for the three just mentioned), but critical in a close election. Mr. Bush carried two of the above states in 2000 and won the election by only five electoral votes.
If the rising Hispanic tide votes for his adversary this year in those states, there will be a new president—even if the old one does win Florida.
Speaking of Florida, Mr. Bush does better among Hispanics there—mainly because the largest single bloc of Hispanics in the Sunshine State are anti-communist and economically successful Cubans who like Republicans. A recent poll conducted by a Democratic-leaning polling firm, Sergio Bendixen and Associates, shows that while Mr. Kerry is leading among Hispanic voters in the three key southwestern states, Mr. Bush leads among Hispanics in Florida—but not with all of them.
As News Max reported, quoting a research analyst at the polling firm,
“The Cubans born in Cuba are supporting Mr. Bush with 80 percent of the vote, and 12 percent for John Kerry. The U.S. born [Cubans] are supporting Mr. Kerry with 54 percent, and only 33 percent for the president.” [Poll: Bush’s Surprising Latino Draw , May 21, 2004]
In other words, Cubans who actually experienced communism and who are probably older, better off and whiter, prefer the Republican. Younger Cubans are more like other Hispanics and prefer the Democrat.
This trend does not augur well for Republican command of the Cuban vote—or of the state of Florida—for the future.
In 2000, Mr. Bush won only a third of the Hispanic vote nationally, and he won that many only because he barely won 50 percent of the Florida Hispanic vote to Mr. Gore’s 48 percent, and he won that mainly because Cuban-American voters were angry with the Democrat over the Clinton administration’s policy toward Elian Gonzalez.
In 1996, Mr. Clinton did unusually well among Cuban voters in Florida, so they’re a bit more in play than Republicans and their propagandists like to think.
The Achilles heel of the Hispanic vote, for Democrats at least, is that they often don’t vote at all. As an official at the DNC told the Associated Press recently, in California, 3.4 million Hispanics were eligible to vote in California in 2000, but only 1.5 million did—less than half.
Obviously, if it’s in the interest of the Democrats to get these voters to the polls, it’s in the interest of the Republicans to keep them away and issue their main appeal to the white voters who are the GOP base.
One difference between the two parties is that the Democrats learn the obvious lesson—which is why they push voter registration efforts for Hispanics—and the Republicans don’t.
Despite the clear pattern over time that Hispanics support the Democrats and its repetition every election year, the Republicans cling to the hope that next year they’ll win Hispanics.
Sooner or later even the Republicans may wake up to the reality that if they do not start controlling immigration soon, they and whatever remains of what they purport to believe in will be swamped by their Democratic rivals riding the rising Hispanic tide.