Texas Could Soon Be a Republican Presidential Nightmare

Demographics are destiny in politics. And the GOP's future looks dim.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The conference on the future of U.S. politics, convened at the American Enterprise Institute on Friday, has come and gone, leaving in its wake more bad news for the Republican Party.

I know. You're asking: "So what else is new?" The GOP has been taking a beating in the public opinion polls of late. What makes this particular set of portends scary for Republicans is that the conferees were not studying mere polling snapshots. They were dealing with demography—long-term trends regarding various voting groups identified by age, race and geographic location. And in politics, demography is destiny.

I'm going to highlight some of the findings as the week progresses. I'll begin today with race.

Here's the bottom line: As the white vote continues to shrink in America, the Democrats are doing a much better job attracting voters of African, Latino and Asian ancestry. Especially in key Electoral College states.

The Brookings Institution's William Frey delivered the numbers.

  • The Democrats did better last year among white folks. In 2008, Republican John McCain carried the white vote by 12 points, a poorer showing than George W. Bush, who beat John Kerry by 17 points among white voters in 2004. And because so much of the Republican margin among white voters was built up in the South, Barack Obama was able to win 223 electoral votes in the rest of the country (up from Kerry's 62 electoral votes) by winning white majorities in those states.
  • As might be expected, the nation's first African-American president carried black voters by 91 points, up from Kerry's 77-point victory in 2004. That was important. But also crucial was Obama's margin among other minority voters. He did 16 points better among Latino voters and 15 points better among Asian-Americans than Kerry did in 2004.
  • And, perhaps most significantly, the current preference shown by minority voters for Democrats is taking place as the minority share of the electorate increases. The percentage of voters who were white slipped between 2004 and 2008, from 79 to 76 percent.
  • The trends in age favor the party that appeals to all races. About 77 percent of white Americans and 66 percent of black Americans are over 18 and eligible to vote, but the Latino population has a huge baby boom on the way. Some 45 percent of Latino America is still under the age of 18. Even without further immigration, the importance of Latino voters is, proportionately, going to continue to grow.
  • To be sure, the clout of minority voters has historically been minimized by their reluctance to turnout and vote on Election Day. And, in 2008, white turnout once again led all racial groups. But, here again, the trends favor a party that pitches the biggest tent, and right now that is the Democrats. Turnout for white voters slipped a point from 67 to 66 percent between 2004 and 2008, but in all other groups it climbed. The turnout of black voters went from 60 to 65 percent, for Latinos from 47 to 50 percent and for Asian-Americans from 45 to 48 percent.

    What does this mean for presidential elections? Well, let's look at the classic big swing state of Florida. In 2004 and 2008 in Florida, the results among white voters were pretty much the same. Bush carried the state's white population by 15 points in 2004 and McCain by 14 points in 2008. But Obama won black voters by 92 points in 2008 (up from Kerry's 73-point margin in 2004) and turned the Latino vote around. Though Bush carried Florida's Latinos by 12 points in 2004, McCain lost them by 15 points in 2008. And as the Democrats were doing better among minority voters in Florida, the minority share of the electorate was growing. White voters made up 76 percent of the vote in Florida in 2004 and but 71 percent in 2008.

    For a party that carries Latino voters by healthy margins, it doesn't take much to tilt a Red state into the Blue or Purple columns. Latinos comprise 21 percent of the population (and 15 percent of the vote) in purple Florida, and 37 percent of the population (and 21 percent of the vote) in blue California. Both went Democratic last year.

    The real nightmare for Republican strategists, sifting through these statistics, has to be Texas—which, like California and a few others, is now a majority minority state.

    According to Frey's charts, 40 percent of the population in Texas, but only 20 percent of the vote, is Latino. If Latinos continue to vote with the Democrats, and the Dems ever find a way to get them to the polls in Texas, the last of the three great Republican Sunbelt bastions could fall.

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