Just the other day Ann Coulter was advising the Republican Party to abandon the effort to win over Latino voters, describing the Hispanic electorate as "a group of people who will never vote for [Republicans]." Such reasoning is clearly baseless, but the idea that the GOP can ignore Latinos and still succeed has unfortunately cropped up in other media outlets -- this time as expressed by Nate Cohn, who essentially agreed with Coulter's advice to Republicans in his recent column for The New York Times:
There's a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don't need their votes, at least not this year.
Republicans would probably hold the House -- and still have a real chance to retake the Senate -- if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot.
At least since President Barack Obama won the Latino vote by a 71-to-27 percent margin in the 2012 presidential election, Republican Party leaders have been calling on the GOP's rank-and-file to do more to win over the Hispanic electorate. The GOP elite knows that it cannot win in the long term, given inevitable demographic trends, unless it wins over a much greater share of Latino voters than it currently attracts. At the moment, the party's "Latino problem" is most obvious in presidential contests. Give it a few more years, though, and even races in which the Hispanic electorate used to play only a small part will change as more and more Latinos come of age and register to vote.
Beyond demographic shifts, no party can focus simply on one legislative chamber and still hope to have any real influence on public policy. Whether in state and local races, contests for the House and Senate, or the presidential election, Latino voters will matter -- and Latino voters are motivated by issues, not by candidates or their party affiliations.
The NCLR Action Fund recently partnered with Latino Decisions for a series of polls gauging the interests and likely choices of Latino voters in several key races this fall. While the polling did find that more Latino voters indicated they would vote for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate, the most interesting finding was the high level of still undecided voters in each state.
In Colorado's Senate race, for example, 31 percent of Latino voters remain undecided on whether they will vote for incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall or for his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner. In a race as close as this one, neither candidate can afford to ignore the Hispanic electorate and hope to win.
Both candidates in Florida's gubernatorial election have selected Latino running mates, a clear sign that incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his opponent, former Fl. Gov. Charlie Crist, are taking Latino voters seriously. As well they should - our polling found that 37 percent of the state's 1.6 million registered Latino voters are still unsure whether they will vote for Gov. Scott or choose former Gov. Crist to replace him.
Whether in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, or elsewhere this fall, being "willing to risk alienating Hispanics," as Cohn advises, would be to take political recklessness to a new extreme. Nate Cohn writes that the numbers show the safety of ignoring Latino voters. When we've looked at tightly-contested races in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and other places across the country, we've found the story to be quite different.