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Republicans and the Latino Vote: Looking towards 2016

Latino VoteLatinos will play the lead role the next election, an election that could easily be decided in favor of the Republicans—that’s right, Democrats are not a favorite in 2016.

Two days after the 2012 presidential election, the front page of The New York Times was covered with explanations of Obama’s tactical victory and Republicans inability to connect with the changing American electorate. They carried columns entitled: “Demographic Shift Brings New Worry for Republicans,” and, “In Record Turnout, Latinos Solidly Back Obama. Finally, Nicholas Kristof asks: “Can Republicans Adapt?” The answer, I think, is yes.

The next election should not be expected to parallel the last because the GOP race in 2012 was never destined for greatness. It is clear that Mitt Romney was not the favorite candidate of the Republican base and other prominent Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio refused to enter the race, presumably because they like their chances in 2016 better than running against the incumbent Barack Obama. In fact, the lessons from Mitt Romney’s loss may serve as the Republican Party’s best weapon.

Latinos will be the difference. CNN reports that Latinos made up 10% of the voting electorate for the first time in history, and a full 71% of Latinos voted for Barack Obama, facts which undoubtedly give Republicans great pause. In four years, GOP strategists will be fighting for the Latino vote like never before. House and Senate races will feature Republicans like the Texan Tea Partier Ted Cruz and Washington Representative Jaime Herrera. The Republican presidential primary will include even more prominent Latino politicians, drawing in Latino voters. And if Republicans can manage to run a solid campaign with Florida Senator Marco Rubio as presidential or vice presidential nominee, they will likely be the favorite.

There are only a few ways that Democrats could challenge a Republican ticket made up of, for example, Governor Christie and Senator Rubio. Replicating President Obama’s vote from the Black community would be one way. However, 93% of African-Americans voted for Obama, and it is very unlikely that any candidate will be able to approach that figure in 2016 (except maybe Cory Booker). The second way that Democrats might possibly pull out the next election is by appealing to women like never before.

Race and gender will be the defining features of the 2016 election, and from my view the Republicans are going to be ready for a fight. They will have had four years to study their loss, position themselves for victory, and they will likely have much more appealing candidates than they did in the last election. A Democrat has not succeeded another Democrat as president since Lyndon Johnson, and to do so, Democrats will need something amounting to Hillary Clinton’s influence, Cory Booker’s charisma, or, perhaps, Joe Biden’s smile.

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