After suffering substantial loses in the recent election, one which had seemed very winnable only a short year ago, the Republican Party has done some soul searching of late. With the loss of a number of winnable Senate seats and the Presidency, GOP leaders examined the voting results. The demographics did not lie: not only was the gender gap bigger than ever (likely to due with a number of rape-related comments from GOP candidates), but Republican also lost 71% of the Latino vote. This realization has caused those concerned about the future of the Republican Party to reexamine the party’s stance on immigration.
Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the country, a fact which has certainly shown itself in increasing “blueness” of border states. New Mexico was recently a battle ground state, though it was not tightly contested in the 2012 Election. Arizona, once a conservative stronghold, has been transformed by a growing Latino vote. The Democratic Senate candidate there, Richard Carmona, found himself much closer than expected to Republican Jeff Flake. Arizona’s controversial immigration law has caused some backlash from many groups, both in and outside of the state, against its conservative supporters. Many experts believe that by 2016, Arizona will be a purple state and a battleground for the 2016 Presidential election.
GOP leaders have seen the writing on the wall. Their struggles among this critical demographic in 2012 are only the beginning. If they cannot find a way to appeal to the growing Hispanic community, the Republican Party could find itself unable to credibly compete in the 2016 Presidential contest. Though their lack of support from Hispanics has a range of causes, immigration is chief among them. Some high profile Republicans have made statements that can be interpreted as xenophobic, and many in the GOP have gone to absurd lengths in describing border security (recall Herman Cain’s moat with alligators). In the past, the GOP has not only opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, but also extremely tight and selective restrictions on legal immigration.
Since the election, many prominent Republicans have spoken up on the immigration issue. Radio-host Sean Hannity has said that his position on immigration has shifted, saying that he now supports a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally. Senator Graham (R) of South Carolina has been in talks with Senator Schumer (D) of New York on immigration reform, and Senator Rubio (R) of Florida has spoken up as well on the need to moderate the party’s position. A few Republican governors have also spoken up about the issue, suggesting a groundswell Republican support for some sort of immigration reform. GOP leaders realize that the immigration issue is severely hampering their electoral chances, and they want to put this issue behind them before the next election cycle.