GOP Problems Go Far Beyond Hispanics

The GOP's problems extend far beyond immigration.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, there was much discussion about the incredibly poor performance that Republicans garnered across the board among Hispanic voters, and many leading Republicans responded to this by urging the party move away from the immigration rhetoric that has defined the party for some six years now and accept the reality of comprehensive immigration reform. This is generally a good idea, as I’ve noted, and the GOP would be wise to actually work on getting something done on immigration rather than using it as a wedge issue and fundraising tool. However, it’s also worth noting that the Republican Party’s problems go far beyond the fact that it is losing ground with the fastest growing minority group in the country:

Certainly, Republicans need to improve with Latino voters, and quickly. The Latino share of the electorate is poised to increase incrementally in every election for the foreseeable future, raising the GOP’s burden with Hispanics each year. Romney’s performance among Latino voters was abysmal, and it wasn’t helped by his stance on immigration reform. But the immigration explanation for Romney’s defeat isn’t quite as good as it sounds. As mentioned over the last few days, the GOP also fell short of their benchmarks with rural Midwesterners, voters in well-educated and affluent suburbs, and African Americans. Hispanic voters were just one of many components of Obama’s victory, not an overriding factor. The GOP will have miscalculated the breadth of their challenge if they adopt immigration reform as their one-plank plan for recapturing the White House in 2016


The Republicans have a Hispanic problem. But they also have a problem with young voters, African Americans, affluent suburbs, and the rural Midwest. A winning GOP coalition in 2016 will involve gains with each of these groups, not just one. And if Republicans assume that a quick flip flop on immigration reform will produce massive gains among Hispanics, they’ll probably be disappointed.

This is the problem that Republicans face in the future. Even if they keep their base together, they still have to deal with the fact that the swing states are dominated by groups that have drifted away from the Republican Party and that the Party’s current message is not resonating with them. The GOP’s gap with African-Americans is well-known has been a fact of life for the better part of a half a century now. In all honesty, it’s unlikely that we’ll see significant Republican gains among this particular group any time in the foreseeable future, at least not as long as the party continues to essentially ignore inner city issues and is perceived as pandering to people who just plain don’t like African-Americans. The Latino problem is one we all became familiar with this year, and seems to be the only one that Republicans are focusing on at the moment. And, I’ve already focused on the issue of the GOP and its failure to adequately appeal to younger voters.

That leaves one final group, residents of affluent suburbs, which just so happens to be a significant part of many of the swing states the Mitt Romney lost last week. One case in point for this would be Virginia. Once again this year, Barack Obama won all three of the high population suburbs in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Fairfax County (by nearly 90,000 votes), Prince William County (by roughly 30,000 votes), and Loudoun County (by nearly 7,000 votes). The President also won the voter-rich Richmond suburbs in Henrico County (by about 19,000 votes) and came within 5,000 votes of winning Virginia Beach, which has traditionally been a Republican area. Winning these five counties is a virtual guarantee to winning the state as a whole. You can find similar areas of other swing states where suburban voters went for Obama and likely threw the state into his lap.

You can point to a whole host of reasons why these suburban voters, who used to be reliably Republican in many cases, jumped ship and voted for the President. For one thing, it’s fairly obvious in retrospect that the Romney/Ryan campaign never presented a coherent idea of what it would do once in office, and never tried to combat the President’s efforts to tie them to the still unpopular policies of George W. Bush. For another, the Republican position on social issues ranging from abortion to birth control to same-sex marriage clearly seems to be out of sync with voters in these parts of the country. For example, exit polling indicated that Obama greatly outperformed Romney among suburban women, married or unmarried. It’s not far-fetched at all to believe that this was due in no small part to the party’s disastrous handling of everything from the Virginia Ultrasound bill to the Sandra Fluke controversy to the idiotic comments by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

Republicans would do well to engage in some self-reflection in the wake of these election results, but if they do so they better recognize that their problems won’t be solved merely by pandering to Hispanic voters.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    When a party insists on only speaking and listening to itself, it’s the last one to realize the rest of the country has left it behind.

    This isn’t a 2014 or 2016 issue, but a “for the rest of our natural lives” issue.

  2. Moosebreath says:


    While not disagreeing with you, this line “You can point to a whole host of reasons why these suburban voters, who used to be reliably Republican in many cases, jumped ship and voted for the President.” makes it seem like this is a new phenomenon. Certainly this is not true for Philly’s suburbs for a generation. Since at least 1992, Philly’s suburbs have gone at least 50-50, if not adding to the Democratic margin.

  3. john personna says:

    I grew up in California and have always been comfortable with the cultural mix. It was natural. Of course there are taco shops. They’ve been there 250 years.

    When I try to tell this now on some conservative sites, I’m disbelieved. America is a white culture, and I’m denying it. I sympathize with invaders.

    Sure, GOP problems go beyond Hispanics, but it’s a prime example of Lindsay Graham’s “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    GOP Problems Go Far Beyond Hispanics

    That’s an amazingly ironic headline, although the irony largely will be lost on the chattering classes. You could rearrange it as follows: “Hispanics’ problems go far beyond the GOP.”

    Literally today the Census Bureau released its report that the poverty rate among Latinos climbed to 28%. Think about that. More than one in four Latinos now are living in poverty. The unemployment rate among Latinos is 10%. And as we saw all too clearly last week Latinos not altogether coincidentally are becoming a lock step racial identity voting bloc for Democrats. That bodes extraordinarily ill for the Latino community. Take a stroll around East L.A., South Gate, Compton, Stockton and Riverside. Extrapolate.

  5. john personna says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    You poor dumb guy. George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney got 27 percent. What changed? Hispanics!

  6. stonetools says:

    Bobby Jindal has a good start on the problem . The Republicans are now pretty much the stupid party.

    Their tax policy? Stupid.
    Their deficit reduction policy? Stupid.
    Their plan for reviving the economy? Stupid
    Their position on immigration? Stupid.
    Their position on reproductive rights? Stupid
    Their foreign policy? Stupid.

    Its really hard to think of a single area of policy in which the Republican approach is superior.

    The Democrats aren’t perfect, but at least their policies are based on reality. For the Democrats, climate change, environmental damage caused by pollution, evolution, and feminine biology really are established science, and not matters up for debate or worse, lies spread by the Devil .
    Its not surprising that Republicans lose in areas inhabited by educated voters.

  7. Blue Shark says:

    At risk of stating the obvious, …

    …It is the Lies, Stupid.

    …Since the vast majorities of GOP policies suck, the lies are to obfuscate the truth.

    …Pretty simple really.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Could someone please hit the Mitt Romneys of the Republican Party over the head and point out that we’re not living in the Ozzie & Harriet 1950s world anymore?

    (Actually, why anyone would want to go back to the 1950s is beyond me. It was all those kids who grew up in the supposed utopia of the 50s who turned into the flag-burning hippies of the 60s, remember. If your supposedly perfect culture can’t even make it through one generation it’s not going to last that long.)

  9. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    The Republicans have a Hispanic problem. But they also have a problem with young voters, African Americans, affluent suburbs, and the rural Midwest.

    According to the exit polls, the Republicans also seem to have a problem with unmarried women (67% to 31%), Asian-Americans (73% to 26%), LGBT voters (76% to 22%), Jewish voters (69% to 30%), voters from “other” religious traditions (e.g., Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims) (74% to 23%), and the non-religious (70% to 26%).

    But the Republicans still have quite a lock on the White Born-Again Christian vote 78% to 21%. Funny, that.

  10. Mary G says:

    Well, the Ohio state legislature (Republican, natch) is working this week not on jobs or taxes or letting people vote without jumping through onerous hoops to combat non-existent voter fraud, or other things people care about, but yet another restrictive “no money for the demon Planned Parenthood” bill. I’m too old to get pregnant and certainly not a fan of abortion, go to my own private OB/GYN and indeed have never been a patient of PP, but it just enrages me. Scoff about the “war on women” if you want, but I do feel attacked.

  11. Barry says:

    @stonetools: “Bobby Jindal has a good start on the problem . The Republicans are now pretty much the stupid party.”

    And if you know anything about his policies, they’ll stay that way. Jindal is nothing more than the latest corrupt, nasty GOP governor to step onto the national stage.

  12. MBunge says:

    And it may be understood by all, but it should be stated that all these GOP problems with voters occurred in an election where the Democrats were burdened by 4 years of 8% unemployment. What happens in 2016 if the jobless rate is 5% or lower?