If the GOP does not make a concerted effort to woo Hispanic voters in 2012, the White House could be lost for decades. New Mexico governor Susana Martinez could help bridge that gap.
The biggest political story over the past weekÂ was the no-thrills release of a 16-page report by the Census bureau, which underscored a massive paradigm shift in how politics is conducted.
On May 26, theÂ Census released what an official at the bureau described as “the latest, most up to date data on the Hispanic population in the United States.” The numbers, culled from its 2010 survey, tell a remarkable — albeit anticipated — story: The Hispanic population is growing at a rate much faster than any other demographic.
Currently, 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States (roughly 16 percent of its 308.7 million population), a significant increase from the 35.3 million Hispanics in the country in 2000. The 15.2 million difference accounts for more than half of U.S. population growth during that same time period.
And in some areas of the country, that ratio is even more pronounced.
In the South, for instance, the Hispanic population grew by 57 percent between 2000 and 2010, while overall population growth in the region during that same time period was only 14 percent. In the Midwest, the Hispanic population grew by 49 percent, more than 12 times the population growth of all other groups during that period. Hispanics doubled or more in population size in 912 of the United States’ 3,143 counties. Only six of those counties showed negative percent change in the Hispanic population.
Gaming out the political ramifications of such a dramatic demographic shift is not an easy calculus. The Hispanic population is not monolithic; nor does it vote on singular issues, often prioritizing immigration reform below economic matters. What works as an electoral motivator in Florida may fall short in Illinois.
Operatives from both sides of the ledger agree, however, that a both Democrats and Republicans have a generation-defining opportunity at hand. But only one party seems positioned to take advantage. In 2004, 5.1 million Hispanics voted for Democratic candidates, 4.3 million for Republicans. In 2008, the ratio changed, with 7.8 million voting Democratic and 3.6 million voting Republican, according to data compiled by New Policy Institute.
In practical political terms, such growth indicates that the structure of elections will become fundamentally different. Whereas the suburbs have served as traditional battlegrounds for national or statewide campaigns, over time, the competitiveness of those locales will change. As the minority population grows outside the cities, the pool of physical land over which the two parties will compete may shrink.