A day after the presidential election, even Republican strategists agree that Mitt Romney blew it with Latino voters and that the GOP has some serious soul searching ahead of it. Deep in the heart of red Texas, Republicans should also see the writing on the wall.
“Clearly, when you look at African-American and Latino voters, they went overwhelmingly for the president,” John Stineman, a Republican strategist from Iowa told Fox News Latino. “And that’s certainly a gap that’s going to require a lot of attention from Republicans.”
Overwhelming is right. Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote while Romney won a piddly 27 percent, according to national exit polls. Obama did even better than in 2008 with Latino turnout, when he took 67 percent to Republican John McCain’s 31 percent.
Remember more than a decade ago when George W. Bush won about 40 percent of the Latino vote nationally? The Texas Republican Party and groups like the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, co-founded by George W.’s nephew George P. Bush, want to prove it wasn’t an anomaly.
Republican state Chair Steve Munisteri admitted it was crucial to the party’s survival during a 2011 Observer interview: “The Republican Party is living on borrowed time. If every Latino were to vote today in Texas, the Republican Party would lose all of its statewide seats.”
George P. Bush and others were feeling confident after the 2010 election, with six Hispanic Republicans, including Aaron Peña who switched parties, in the Texas House and two in U.S. Congress.
But last night those numbers plummeted. Republicans may still hold the majority of seats in Texas, but Tuesday’s election showed the party has serious problems for relevancy with the growing Hispanic electorate in Texas.
Of the seven Hispanic Republicans elected in 2010, only two remain: State Rep. Larry Gonzalez of Round Rock and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores.
Sure, there were some wins last night for Hispanic Republicans: State Rep. Jason Villalba in Dallas beat his Democratic opponent; Democrat-turned-Republican J.M. Lozano won his Coastal Bend district; and Ted Cruz trounced his democratic opponent for a U.S. Senate seat.
But there were more bruising defeats than triumphs. The biggest was the loss of Congressional District 23, a rural district that spans from San Antonio to El Paso County. Nationally, both parties see the majority Hispanic district as a bellwether that signals which party can best appeal to the growing number of Latino voters. Both sides combined to pour more than $10 million into the race, making it one of the nation’s most expensive per capita.
Last night, Democratic challenger Pete Gallego won the district with 50.3 percent to Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s 45.3 percent. (Canseco has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State, claiming voting irregularities). It was a resounding loss for Republicans who poured millions into the race.
The 2012 election has forced the national Republican Party to acknowledge reality—America is more diverse than it used to be. In fact, it’s starting to look a lot like Texas. So as the national Republican Party engages in some soul searching, Texas’s GOP should do the same. Last night’s significant losses do not bode well for the party’s future.