Why The GOP Needs Immigration Reform

Last week, Pete Wehner warned that “the challenges facing the Republican Party, at least at the presidential level, are significant and fairly fundamental.” Among the facts he marshals to make that argument:

In 2016, if there is not a dramatic reduction in African-American turnout, a Republican presidential candidate will need to get 60 percent of the white vote, plus a record-high share among each portion of the non-white vote (African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and others) to win a bare 50.1 percent of the vote.

In response, Trende pooh-poohs the importance of Hispanic voters:

If the GOP reduces the Democrats’ share of the Hispanic vote to 67 percent, Florida goes Republican. At 56 percent, New Mexico flips. Nevada and Colorado flip at 51 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Incidentally, Mitt Romney is still losing the Electoral College, 283 to 255. It isn’t until the Republicans win 63 percent of the Hispanic vote that Pennsylvania finally flips, handing Romney the presidency.

There are very good reasons to pursue the Hispanic vote from both moral and policy perspectives, and of course every vote does help. But from a cold electoral calculus, the Democrats’ gains among Hispanics at this point yield very little fruit.

Chait counters Trende by focusing on Florida:

Last July, Nate Cohn wrote a definitive piece explaining why Florida should terrify Republicans. Cohn is hardly a Democratic Pollyanna – he’s also made the bracing case that Texas is not going to turn blue or even purple for a long, long time, if ever. The white share of the vote is rapidly collapsing in Florida, having fallen from 72 percent of the vote in 2004 to under 66 percent in 2012, and is projected to keep dropping fast. Only a precipitous spike in white support for Republicans, probably in keeping with the general white southern reaction against Barack Obama, has kept the state even close; as Cohn explains, if the next Democrat could merely replicate John Kerry’s performance among white voters, he (or she) would win the state by nine points.

Republicans may not have the luxury of building their entire comeback strategy around regaining Florida. As Trende implies, flipping the state alone wouldn’t have given Mitt Romney enough electoral votes to win in 2012. But winning the presidency without Florida is nearly unimaginable for Republicans.