Pundits of every stripe last night were discussing the massive turnout of Latinos and the undisputed view that these voters made the difference for the President. About 10% of the electorate was Latino, compared to 9% in 2008, a difference of about 1.3 million people. And the support for the President was up 4% from 2008, so that meant another 500,000 or so votes for Obama. That’s just under the current popular vote margin the President has over Mitt Romney.
It’s hard to see how a Republican will ever win the White House again unless Latinos or other minorities are brought in to the GOP tent. White voters constituted the smallest percentage of the electorate – just 72% - ever recorded in a presidential race. If the GOP can’t win in a bad economy, and with general agreement that the white population’s percentage of the general electorate shrinking, it is hard to see this problem getting better on its own.
That’s why many believe the GOP has no choice but to support an immigration reform package. Some key quotes compiled by America’s Voice:
David Gergen on CNN: I am quite optimistic whoever wins will get immigration reform. The Democrats want it and the Republicans now need it.”
Chuck Todd on NBC: “The story of this election is demographics. The Republican Party have not kept up with the changing face of America…The Republican Party has serious soul-searching to do.” He also said on MSNBC: There are some things where it’s the Party’s fault, not Romney’s fault, but in the case Romney said ‘no, no, no, I’m going to make my conservative stand on immigration.”
Fox’s Brit Hume: “The Republican party's going to have to ask itself if the hardline position that Mitt Romney assuredly took during the primary season to try to win this election -- he took a hardline position on immigration -- is in the long run a winning position for them. Karl Rove and George H.W. Bush never thought so, and others don't think so, as well. And so when they're saying 'Well, Mitt Romney wasn't conservative enough' as some certainly will say, you have to point to that issue as one that might be a short-term and a long-term loser for them, politically.”
Fox’s BrianKilmeade: “The problem is for Republicans, less and less white voters every year…we have got to talk about what the next four years will look like. And I think immigration reform will be front and center.”
David Gregory tweeted: “Romney personally appealed to Senate leaders to pass immigration reform a year before he began his campaign. Demo probs not new.”
Paul Begala tweeted: “& 2014 &nd 2016 &…MT@feldmike Hispanic voters will play a decisive roll in election 2012. Demographic trends undeniable.”
Ari Fleischer said on CNN: “The big issue Republicans are going to have to wrestle with is the Hispanic issue…with immigration, the Republicans are going to have to figure out a different way forward.”
And the Wall Street Journal editorial page: “Perhaps most damaging, Mr. Romney failed to appeal more creatively to minority voters, especially Hispanics. His single worst decision may have been to challenge Texas Governor Rick Perry in the primaries by running to his right on immigration. Mr. Romney didn't need to do this given that Mr. Perry was clearly unprepared for a national campaign, and given the weakness of the other GOP candidates. (Tim Pawlenty had dropped out.) Mr. Romney missed later chances to move to the middle on immigration reform, especially Senator Marco Rubio's compromise on the Dream Act for young immigrants brought here by their parents. This created the opening for Mr. Obama to implement the core of the Dream Act by executive order, however illegally, and boost his image with Hispanic voters. The exit polls show that Mr. Romney did even worse among Hispanics than John McCain in 2008, and we may learn in coming days that this was the margin in some swing states. The GOP needs to leave its anti-immigration absolutists behind.”
Former GOP Party Chair Michael Steele on MSNBC: “For the Republican Party, you know what our new reality is? Every month, 50,000 Hispanics turn 18 years old. That’s 600,000 Hispanic youth every year. Do you really think this party wants to spend the rest of the next 15, 20, 50 years in the political desert? If not, then you have to get with the new reality.“
There has been some disagreement over what voters generally want to see happen. The question of immigration was raised in the major exit poll conducted by the networks. 28% of respondents were in favor of a tough immigration policy emphasizing deportation of illegally present immigrants. But nearly two thirds favored offering such immigrants a path to a legal status in the US. Of course, the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform produced its own exit poll claiming just the opposite – that 52% of respondents want tougher immigration laws compared to 31% favoring a legalization policy. Judge for yourself. But I’d put this up there in the same level of reliability as all of those internal polls that said Mitt Romney would win in a landslide.