Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio Warn Republicans On Losing Hispanic Voters

Two prominent Florida Republicans are warning their party about losing the support of the nation's fastest growing ethnic group.

As the Republican candidates for President slog through the final days of campaigning in a state with a large Hispanic population, two Florida Republicans with strong ties to the Hispanic community are warning their party about rhetoric that threatens to alienate the fastest growing minority voting bloc in the country:

Senior Republicans including the brother of the former president George Bush have warned the party to avoid using “harsh, intolerable and inexcusable” language about illegal immigration or risk alienating Latino voters.

The Florida senator, Marco Rubio, and the state’s former governor Jeb Bush made their appeal before Tuesday’s primary, being contested by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The Republican frontrunners clashed over illegal immigration in a debate earlier this week. The issue is emotive in Florida, which has the third largest Latino population in America.

Latinos make up 13% of Florida’s 11.2 million registered voters, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections, compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center.

“We must admit there are those among us that have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable and inexcusable,” Rubio said in a speech at the Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami on Friday.

“And we must admit, myself included, that sometimes we’ve been too slow to condemn that language for what it is.”


Bush also urged Republicans to temper their comments. “Hispanic people hear these debates and I think you turn them off. It’s not a good thing,” he said.

Bush also addressed the issue in a Washington Post Op-Ed published earlier this week in which he urges Republicans to rethink the way they think, and talk, about immigration:

Republicans should reengage on this issue and reframe it. Start by recognizing that new Americans strengthen our economy. We need more people to come to this country, ready to work and to contribute their creativity to our economy. U.S. immigration policies should reflect that principle. Just as Republicans believe in free trade of goods, we should support the freer flow of human talent.

We need to connect immigration to other pro-growth policies, so that new Americans can apply their talents here and succeed. The United States needs an economy that is vibrant and dynamic, open to the contributions of new entrants. We have to reduce regulations across our economy, whenever they impede economic dynamism and flexibility in the labor market. We need secure energy supplies, radical tax reform and a reduced footprint of power of the state.

Immigration reform requires economic reforms. We must be able to assure new Americans the opportunity to succeed and contribute their talents.

And when they come, as surely they will, we must welcome them, no matter whether they speak Spanish or Creole or Portuguese. When we hear foreign languages in the streets of America, that is a validation of the Republican vision to create a place where people want to come and make their lives. Hispanics here speak or are learning English — not French, Chinese or Hindi. There is a lesson in that, and Republicans should be the ones to champion it.

The one thing that has been striking about the two Republican debates in Florida this week is the manner in which the tone of the discussion about immigration has changed from previous debates. The lines about “border security” and immigrants taking American jobs, while not gone completely, were being counterbalanced by discussions about compassion and the value of immigrants. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney voiced support for a modified version of the DREAM Act that would give legal residency to illegal immigrants who serve in the military. Statehood for Puerto Rico was discussed as an option. And, both Romney and Gingrich made it clear that they were not in favor of deporting Grandmothers. It’s almost as if Rick Perry, another Governor from a state with a large Hispanic population who advocated programs like in-state tuition for the children of  illegal immigrants, were still in the race instead of having been shunned by his party’s base for advocating a policy that he called compassionate.

Of course, this is largely because the candidates are in Florida this week and eager to attract the support of the Cuban community in Miami and the large Puerto Rican community that resides around Orlando and in other areas of the state. Earlier this month, when they were in Iowa where anti-immigrant sentiment runs bizarrely high for a state that is more than 1,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, the rhetoric was very different. The same goes for South Carolina. Next month, the candidates will be competing in states like Nevada and Arizona and it’s quite likely that the toned down rhetoric will be replaced with the same anti-immigrant rhetoric we saw a few weeks ago in Iowa. z

Bush and Rubio are right, of course. Thanks largely to a bizarre no-compromises position on immigration reform, the GOP is in the process of alienating even further an ethnic group that is going to become a huge part of the voting electorate in states that stretch from California, across the Southwest, into Texas, and all the way to Florida. There are also large and growing Hispanic populations in swing states like Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina. For the GOP to ignore the problems it has with this voting bloc strikes me, and apparently Bush and Rubio, as a form of electoral suicide that would take a long time repair.  The Latino vote in California seems to be lost already and with it, most likely, the State of California itself for the foreseeable future. Other surveys have shown that Hispanics nationwide, while not necessarily thrilled with the Obama Administration’s increased deportations and failure to follow through on comprehensive immigration reform, are more turned off by the GOP’s stance on immigration issues than they are disappointed in the Democratic Party’s to follow through on its promise.

Observing this problem in March, I said this:

The GOP stands on the verge of losing the fastest growing ethnic group in the country for at least a generation, all because the conservative base continues to cling to a restrictionist, anti-immigrant policy on immigration and refuses to even discuss the possibility of compromise on issues like amnesty for people already in the country illegally. To these conservatives, the answer to the immigration problem is an easy one but the truth it that it isn’t easy, and they’re leading the GOP down the road to electoral disaster.

People like Bush and Rubio clearly recognize this. Whether their fellow Republicans do, or whether they care, isn’t at all clear.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2012, Race and Politics, 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. Matt Yglesias worked t his into a review of Thomas Edsall’s “The Age of Austerity:”

    Edsall describes a conservative movement of the socially dominant—relatively wealthy, white, and elderly—facing off against what demographics suggest will be an ever-expanding alliance of blacks, Hispanics, the young, the poor, and social-service providers. This right coalition stood, superficially at least, on the verge of being routed in January 2009. Instead, a mix of canny legislative strategies, Democratic errors, and sharp recession has put them back in the game. Now, Edsall writes, “Republicans see the window closing on the opportunity to dismantle the liberal state.” They are determined to give it what they see as one last shot before they’re “forced to accommodate changing demographics as proponents of big government gain traction.”

    The bit about “the window closing” was striking.

  2. Oh, sorry. link

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Bush and Rubio are cogent, rational and professional men. As for the larger GOP electorate, however, especially the primary base, that’s quite a different story. The Bible bots vote upon religion or upon faux religion. That group cares nothing about electoral trends, tactics and strategies. The country clubbers are too busy sailing their yachts to worry about the Latino demographic. Of course the crackers don’t want the support of Latinos and actively would reject it. Going forward this will be an existential issue for the health of the Republican Party. A fatal one, I presume.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    Sorry – they lose the Hispanics or they lose the base. They can’t have both thanks to Lee Atwater.

  5. Mr. Prosser says:

    It’s already way too late. Who’s more respected by the base, Brewer or Rubio?

  6. David says:

    That’s the thing about hanging your party on divisive issues, someone is always on the losing end of them and you alienate them. In this case, the republicans have run on “the illegal aliens are ruining our country and will be our downfall.” In the process, they have virtually handed over a growing segment that is traditionally hard working and socially conservative to the democratic party. If they had not gone balls to the wall on the evils of the Hispanic invasion and pushed for idiotic laws on requiring people to show their “papers”, the split on the Hispanic vote would be more even, than completely one sided.

  7. DRS says:

    I’m more optimistic – I do believe the Republicans can come back to sanity on this as on a lot of issues. But not before they crash and burn in a spectacular defeat. It’s going to take that kind of electoral cataclysm before heads start adjusting. As I’ve said before, too many Republican voters think they’ve got the presidential race in the bag regardless of who the candidate is, and as a result warnings about changing direction are dismissed as fearful RINO whimpering or the death throes of the Republican Establishment desperate to keep control (whatever that means).

    Buy shares in Reddenbacher; it’s going to be an interesting election.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    Bush and Rubio are not smart men but idiot politicians who just cannot count. The best that any conservative party can hope is about 1/3 of the Hispanic vote. Adding million of illegal immigrant just creates millions of future Democratic Party voters.

    Now politician can call themselves conservative by voting for open borders that result in higher taxes, higher insurance bills, higher crime, and more damage to the environment.

    The Democrats are schizophrenic in their belief that can have a Nordic style system of entitlements while maintain open borders and unlimited immigration.

    As was said above, liberalism has become a movement of getting goodies from the government and sticking others with the bill.

  9. superdestroyer says:


    Their is nothing really hardworking or conservative about Hispanic culture in the U.S. I take it you have not been to El Paso or Brownsville lately. There is also nothing vibrant about it.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    To any hispanics reading this, please understand that superdestroyer IS absolutely a perfect representative of conservative and Republican thinking. You may want to tell yourself he’s not, but he is.

  11. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why should Republicans be concerned about the opinion of Hispanics. Hispanics are lberals who have shown, for decades, little interest in conservative politics.

    Now that the U.S. is entering a period of single party rule, the Hispanics now to stick with the one, dominate party of the future.

    Once again, the real issue of the future is how does the existence of the single party state affect policy and governance in the U.S. and then in the long term affect the economic and social culture of the U.S.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    You are so right. The GOP needs to do everything it can to make clear to blacks and Hispanics that they are not wanted in the party. If you aren’t white and far right you should not be in the GOP. As a Democrat I absolutely agree.

    I guess we’ll just be stuck with all those African-American and Hispanic and young, educated whites, and Asians of course, and Jews, and let’s see, oh yes of course all the moderates, independents, progressives.

    Keep up the good work! Democrats love you!

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    This cow is out of the barn. The Republicans have already lost hispanics (with the exception of odd pockets like older Cubans) for at least a generation as of right now. And does anyone see any turning aside from an appeal to nativist sentiments? If anything it’s accelerating. The sure kiss of death for any aspiring Republican candidate is to suggest immigration reform which inevitably has to recognise the existence of the roughly 11 million illegals in the country right now.

  14. Brummagem Joe says:


    Why should Republicans be concerned about the opinion of Hispanics. Hispanics are lberals who have shown, for decades, little interest in conservative politics.


  15. Tlaloc says:

    Why should Republicans be concerned about the opinion of Hispanics. Hispanics are lberals who have shown, for decades, little interest in conservative politics.

    There’s actually an interesting bit of thinking here that is, of all things, applicable to 2nd amendment issues, crime, and terrorism. It’s a mindset that views the world as being set in stone and immutable. Hispanics tend toward the liberal side so Hispanics are liberal. It refuses to recognize that things can change or that motivational factors may indeed play into that decision in a rational way. No need to consider why the Hispanics trend the way they do- it’s already happened, and of course since it’s happened it always will happen, always has happened.

    In the same way many conservatives can, with apparently no sense of irony, say that when you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns. They view it as there is some population of criminals out there that exists ab initio and separate from the overall body of people. In reality criminals actually are people, part of the population, and when the people are heavily armed the criminals will be too. But conservatives seem literally incapable of understanding this.

    Then too in the realm of terrorism, this same mindset means that there’s no need to consider why people become terrorists- they were always going to be terrorists, irrespective of what we might have done (or not done). There’s no reason to consider alternatives because there’s no possibility of alternatives. Again terrorists were always terrorists and always will be. Iran was always our enemy and always will be.

    It’s really sort of fascinating in a way, if deeply disturbed. I’m not aware of any terminology for the phenomenon so I simply call it “magic thinking.” It negates so much of the need to consider alternate points of view and motivations and history. Clearly a good match for a party that has descended into a barbarism of deep anti-intellectualism and xenophobia.

  16. Tlaloc says:

    btw I’d guess superdestroyer is not a conservative at all but merely plays one on the web, I do have to congratulate them, if I’m right, on getting this aspect of their thinking nailed so well.

  17. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The Republicans are faced with either getting a higher percentage of the white vote without giving amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens or getting an even higher percentage of the white vote after after amnesty and creating a delta of at least 4 million automatic Democratic Party voters.

    Either way, there is just no way for any conservative party to appeal to Hispanics. Anyone who thinks that is the Republicans come out for amnesty will move even a small number of Hispanics from automatic Democratic voters to Republicans is a fool.

  18. superdestroyer says:


    It is not that I do not care why Hispanics vote liberal in overwhelming numbers. It is just that I realize that there is nothing that any conservative party can do to appeal to a group that is generally poorer and more dependent of the government that the average Republican voter.

    It is to the advantage of Hispanics to vote for the party that supports higher taxes, more goverment, more entitlements, affirmative action, quotas set asides, and open borders.

    The real question is what does idiots like Jeb Bush believe can be done to appeal to Hispanics without the Republican hard to the left.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @superdestroyer: “Anyone who thinks that is the Republicans come out for amnesty will move even a small number of Hispanics from automatic Democratic voters to Republicans is a fool. ”

    That’s purely your opinion and there’s no way of testing it. You may be right. The problem is that given long term ethnic and generational shifts this is a recipe for slow motion electoral suicide.

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Look at the website for Congressional Hispanic Caucus. No conservative ideas there. Look at the fact that over 90% of elected Hispanic are liberal and that some of the most liberal members of congress.

    The choice for the Republicans is to come out for amnesty and open borders and commit demographic suicide quickly or just keep on the conservative path and let the long term demographic trends destroy them.

    The real point is that there is no hope for the survival on any conservative party in the U.S. and that the U.S. is on the path of becoming a one party state. See California for a good example.

  21. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    If America does turn into a one-party state, what becomes of racists like sd?

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Excellent analysis. And I applaud your ability to use the word, “thinking” in connection with superdestroyer while keeping a straight face.

    Of course for him color is the only important factor. Once black you cannot be not-black, once brown you cannot be not-brown, and from this bizarre obsession all else flows.

  23. superdestroyer says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    then the question becomes what two parties will exist if there is not any conservative party. I know some have tried to claim that the U.S. will divide between social conservative/fiscal liberal versus civil libertarians/fiscal liberals.

    However, I doubt that the white elite progressives would ever walk away from the automatic vote of the black and Hispanic voters.

    The other question is whether blacks will ever split their votes between two parties. My guess is that as long as the U.S. has affirmative action and minority set asides, blacks will always be wedded to the Democratic Party.

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: If America does turn into a one-party state, what becomes of racists like sd?

    Re-education camp?

    Of course he’s talking nonsense about one party states there are always going to be left/ center and right/center parties in a pluralistic democracy like ours.The right center party will simply make adjustments to accomodate a shift in the center of political gravity. And at bottom this is what he’s railing against…the long term shift in the center of political gravity in a more liberal and secular direction.

  25. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    What moves has the right of center party made in Chicago? In Mass? In Maryland? In California?

    Please give an example in the last forty years where parties have moved? The Democratic Party has not move since the depression. It just waits for the demographic groups to catch up to it.

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: Why should anyone vote for a party that calls him stupid, lazy, good-for-nothing, and an inferior human being?

    There’s a reason why Hispanics and African-Americans don’t vote for the Republican party candidates and it’s not because of affirmative action programs or set-aside programs.

  27. superdestroyer says:

    @grumpy realist:

    McCain received about the same portion of the Hispanic vote that Reagan or Nixon received. Are you going to claim that the anti-immigration sentiment since 2005 is the reason that Reagan received 25% of the Hispanic vote.

    And when GW Bush was governor of Texas, there were no elected Hispanic Republicans in the State Legislature. Hispanics have been very loyal Democrats for decades and that is because they see the high tax on others and high entitlements to us party.

  28. DRS says:

    You’re absollutely right, SD. You have no future in America. Better flee somewhere more comfortable for you – like Antarctica. All that white stuff. You can make snowmen and feel surrounded by your peers. Don’t wait. Better hurry. Bye!

  29. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I’m Hispanic and my policy preferences are definitely to the Left of Center.

    Ever since I’ve been paying attention to politics in this country I’ve been amazed at how short-sighted Republicans have been in terms of reaching out to Latinos. Given our religiosity and family kinships, Hispanics are a natural constituency. Certainly social issue appeals–in the Santorum style–would have much more of an audience among Hispanics than in the country at large, but all of it is trumped by immigration. Why? Because despite our diversity, Republican rhetoric and policy insists on lumping us together. This, in turn, leads to a stronger ethnic identity as Latinos and not as Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, etc. Once that happens, we are naturally more inclined to side with Democrats who are not busy lumping illegal immigrants with Hispanics or calling Latinos undeserving.

    As a partisan I’m not sad to see this, of course, since I prefer Left of Center policies, but as an American, and as a Hispanic-American, I think it’s tremendously detrimental to the country. It benefits no one to have an insane GOP. If we make policy about good vs. evil, as opposed to discussions about policy, no one can win.

  30. superdestroyer says:


    1. Hispanics attend church at the same level as whites and much less than blacks. Since blacks are the demographic group in the U.S.and attend church the most, it should be obvious that being religious has nothing to do with being a conservative. Also, the Catholic Church supports political positions that are left of center.

    2. Somewhere between 40% and 50% of Hispanic children born in the U.S in 2010 were born to a single mother. Once again, there is not sign that Hispanics are more family oriented than other groups and are much less family oriented than demographic groups like Mormons that are majority Republican voters.

    3. Few, if any, elected Hispanic leaders have shown any interest in social conservative issues. Look at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus website. It is about open borders, unlimited immigration, more government set asides, and expanding entitlement spending.

    4. It is hard to blame Republicans for unified Hispanic political opinion when quotas and set asides have been around for 40 years. Look at how Hispanic leaders have gone from wanting to close the border like Caesar Chavez to wanting open borders and unlimited immigration.

    Once again, the questions for Hispanics, Latinos, or the subgroups is what happens in the future when the U.S. is a one party state with open borders, unlimited immigration, and a goverment struggling to fund Nordic-style entitlements.

  31. Brummagem Joe says:


    “What moves has the right of center party made in Chicago? In Mass? In Maryland? In California? ”

    Er…from what party was the previous governor of CA? ….from what party was the senator who won the seat occupied by Ted Kennedy for 40 years?

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    “McCain received about the same portion of the Hispanic vote that Reagan or Nixon received. Are you going to claim that the anti-immigration sentiment since 2005 is the reason that Reagan received 25% of the Hispanic vote.”

    I notice you conveniently skip the share of the hispanic vote won by GWB when he first ran in 2000. I don’t disagree with your basic premise that hispanics are largely a lost cause for the GOP but it’s a long term disaster entirely of their own making. They’ve positively driven hispanics into the Democratic coalition largely over the issue of immigration reform and assaults on prominent hispanics like Sotomayor.

  33. Brummagem Joe says:


    “and a goverment struggling to fund Nordic-style entitlements.”

    Yep real hell holes Sweden, Denmark and Norway (btw two of them have conservative govts!!!)

  34. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The Democrats currently hold every state wide office in California. Gov. Schwarzenegger had a liberal Democrat as his chief of staff and accomplished nothing. Not exactly a move to the middle for good governance sake.

    Scott Brown will be easily defeated in Nov. and Mass. will return to its normal status of the Democrats being totally in control. Of course, this will happen with Sen. Brown having voted with the Democrats on gay rights and other issues. Sen Brown is a god example that it is impossible for moderates to appeal to the core groups of the Democratic Party.

  35. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The goverment of all Nordic countries would be considered extremely liberal by U.S. standards. Those countries also do not have open borders and unlimited immigration. Those countries also do not have any population growthy due to very low birthrates.

    The scandanavian countries know that they are facing a demographic time bomb due to an aging population and have not more solution than any other country in Europe.

  36. Brummagem Joe says:


    Enter all the caveats you like but these cases demonstrate it’s possible for Republicans to win in a predominantly democratic environment if they adjust. In fact much more potent examples of one party states are to be found across the red south which is clearly the way our political system is going with the Republicans completely dominant in some fundamentalist heartland in the south while for a while at least the Democrats are stronger at the national level. But ultimately the extremist Republican grip on the south is going to be threatened both by minority demographics and the squeezing of poor/middle class whites by Republican southern elites. This will inevitably lead to the emergence of some Huey Long types who are infinitely more “socialistic” than today’s Democrats.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    I can’t see how you can consider the (American branch of the) Catholic Church to be liberal when it seems to be banging the drum for nothing but how EEEVILL abortion and Single-Sex Marriage marriage is. Better support of poor people? Zip. Conservation/stewardship of the Earth? Zip. Anti-war and anti-death penalty? Zip. As far the US Bishops are concerned, it’s all about those nasty homosexuals and those slutty women.

  38. Brummagem Joe says:


    Of course they infinitely more liberal than here but they enjoy one of highest standards of living in the world, outpoint us on most measures of health and wealth, and are facing no more of demographic timebomb than us….and we don’t have open borders or immigration.

  39. Brummagem Joe says:
  40. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The problem for the southern poor is that they do not have the money to avoid blacks and they live in states where blacks live in almost all areas so there is not place to feel to.

    The future of the south is a the fading away of poor whites since they will there will be so few places for them to survive.

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The Catholic church supports single payer insurance, open borders, unlimited immigration, anti-policing, anti-punishment, and more entitlements.

    Outside of abortion, there is little to show that the Catholic church would favor anything that would be considered conservative.

  42. Brummagem Joe says:


    Nonsense I had a house in coastal GA for years. If anything the overall white population in the south is growing because of migration and sexual promiscuity amongst that social class.

  43. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The white birthrate in Georgia is well below replacement value and lower than the black birthrate and the Hispanic birthrate. If you google fertile rates by state, you will see that even though Georgia’s is higher than the New England states it is still lower than blacks and Hispanics.