If Mitt Romney had performed as well among Hispanics as George W. Bush did in 2004, he would have carried Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Colorado, while Nevada would have been too close to call. That would have made him our new president.
In the past eight years, Hispanic support for the GOP has fallen from 45 percent to 27 percent. At the same time, Hispanics are making up a larger part of the electorate (from 8 percent in 2004 to 10 percent now), further compounding the problem. In addition to making these swing states more difficult to carry, this trend threatens to turn Republican strongholds such as Texas and Arizona into contested battlegrounds. The fact is, the GOP needs to expand its reach beyond white voters if it wishes to remain a relevant player in national elections, and Hispanics present a prime opportunity, as they are, on the whole, socially, fiscally and economically conservative. But Republicans’ rigid stance on immigration has spoiled their chances with this critical group of Americans.
The GOP needs to moderate its position as part of an inclusive outreach effort to return Hispanic support to Bush-era levels. House Republicans should get out in front of this by writing comprehensive immigration legislation along the lines of proposals suggested by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Secure the border, let illegal immigrants who have lived here for five years or more and have not committed a crime achieve legal resident status, and allow children who were brought here become citizens by enlisting in the military.
Republicans need to remember that President Reagan advocated and signed into law humane immigration reform. A proposal like this can help the GOP reclaim the upper hand on immigration and greatly increase support for the Republican Party in the Latino community, which is critical to the future success of the party. I think counterproductive immigration attacks were the driving reason for Mr. Romney’s loss. If we correct this, the GOP will be an unstoppable force in future elections.