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Disconnect
The GOP disconnect with minorities

Date published: 11/9/2012

THE BIG WINNER in Tuesday's election? Marco Rubio. Because unless Republicans start looking to appealing minority candidates on their national tickets--and at demographics--they will go the way of the Whigs.

Mr. Rubio is, of course, Florida's young, charismatic, Latino U.S. senator, already one of the front-runners in the 2016 race. Like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he's living proof that a person can be youthful, conservative, a member of a non-European ethnic group, and a Republican. But to look at both voter demographics and GOP campaign dynamics, that combination is uncommon.

Exit polls indicate that, on Tuesday, President Barack Obama captured the young (60 percent of under-30 voters), blacks (93 percent), Latinos (71 percent), Asians (73 percent), and women (55 percent). Mr. Romney held his own with people over age 40 (50 percent) and won whites (59 percent) and men (52 percent).

According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of minorities in the population is increasing. To put it another way, non-Hispanic whites make up just 63 percent of Americans. When a party overtly or by perception ignores or fails to communicate attractive values to minority populations, winning a national election becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Case in point: The Wall Street Journal observes that "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." Later, in the general election, "he missed 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."

Mr. Romney did four percentage points worse among Hispanic voters than Sen. John McCain in 2008. In 2004, George W. Bush won re-election with 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. The trend line has gone exactly the wrong way for Republicans. It must be reversed if the party is to survive.

The case is not hopeless. Writes Mr. Rubio: "The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them."

He's right. But Republicans--or at least a sizable number of them--need to change some of their beliefs, standing down, for example, from their fire-breathing opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants. Otherwise, they'll continue to have long faces as election returns come in.

POSTSCRIPT

Education and location also played roles in voter preference in the 2012 presidential election: Voters with a high-school degree or less and those with postgraduate education tended to vote for Mr. Obama, while those with a bachelor's degree chose Mr. Romney. City dwellers chose Mr. Obama in large numbers (69 percent), while those who live in rural areas picked Mr. Romney (61 percent).

There may be an inherent philosophical difference between city-dwellers and country folk. The former need government to provide many services (water, sewer, trash pickup, etc.), while the latter are more used to fending for themselves.