Republicans and the 47% problem (no, not that 47%)

For many years, political strategists have maintained that a Republican candidate would have to earn 40 percent of the Latino vote in order to win the presidency.

That isn’t the case any more, as the LA Times’ Lisa Mascaro reports:

If the GOP nominee won 60% of the white electorate in 2016, the candidate would need 42% of the Latino vote to win the White House, the research shows.

But if the candidate again topped out at 59% of white voters in 2016 [like Romney did in 2012], he or she would need 47% of the Latino vote to make up the difference, the research said.

Yet how can a Republican party, whose current front runner has unapologetically called Mexicans “rapists” and “murderers”, bring in nearly half of the Latino vote while also earning 6/10 white votes in America?

The answer is: they probably can’t.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

And it’s not just because of Donald Trump. As Mascaro notes:

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, does best with Latinos, at 27%, according to a Univision poll this week, closely trailed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at 25%…

Certainly, these numbers could potentially improve as the election progresses. But this is not a great starting block for the GOP.

Moreover, Republicans would be foolhardy to bank on winning 60 percent of the white vote again. Mitt Romney mustered 59 percent of their vote against a black president. While much of white America distrusts Hillary Clinton, I am doubtful that her numbers will be worse than Obama’s. Call it a hunch.

In particular, as Republican pollster Bill McInturff said, “the 27 percentage point advantage Republicans built among white men in 2012 is probably about as bad as it can get for Clinton.” So, should Hillary actively appeal to more white men?

“The hell with it,” [McInturff] said. “For all the trees that have been killed by the press about which strategy she should pursue, her campaign is doing exactly the right thing. There’s not a choice. She’s pursuing the one strategy that will win the presidency.”

The thing is – the GOP knows their one strategy that will win the presidency: win 47 percent of the Latino vote. (Just check out the Republican National Committee’s brilliant post-2012 autopsy report.) As Dick Armey, a Tea Party leader, told the RNC after 2012, “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We’ve chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home.”

But there is a large difference between recognizing a problem and fixing a problem. So while the GOP has recognized they have alienated many Hispanic voters, they will never be able to fix the problem while simultaneously appeasing a xenophobic base.

That’s excellent news for Democrats and Hillary Clinton, but it’s terrible news for Latinos that would love to have two parties which embraced and included them.



Nick Cassella
Nick Cassella graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014. After graduating, he worked on the Initiative 594 campaign before joining Civic Ventures, where he now manages Civic Skunk Works' social media presence.