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Perry on Politics: Hard times for the GOP

Published by Tim McNulty on .

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New Yorker Daily Cartoon, Nov. 12, 2012

By James M. Perry

Every presidential election is followed by endless analyses of the exit polls and a flood of voting statistics. This one was no exception.

Statistics, though, sometimes jump out at you. How about this one. In four Texas counties (Dallas, Harris, Travis, and Bexar), the minority population, mostly Latino, increased by 1,575,723 between 2000 and 2010.

The white vote is shrinking, the minority vote -- blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans -- is exploding.

"If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community," newly elected Senator Ted Cruz told The New Yorker, "in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party" in Texas.

Not long ago, California, with 55 electoral votes, was the crucial big state for Republicans. Remember Ronald Reagan? Now Democrats hold every statewide office and huge majorities in the state legislature. "Republican leaders should look at California and shudder," Steve Schmidt, manager of John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, told the Huffington Post. "The two-party system has collapsed."

That leaves Texas, with 38 electoral votes, as the Republican flagship -- and Cruz and any number of other GOP observers are worrying that time is running out for Republicans there.

Latinos represent 10 per cent of the electorate, and 71 percent of them, according to exit polls, voted for Mr. Obama. But Latinos aren't the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, Asian-Americans (3 per cent of the electorate) are, and 73 per cent of them voted for the President.

The figures for black voters are staggering -- only 7 per cent of them voted for the party that gave us Abraham Lincoln and freed the slaves. In the past, Republicans from time to time would come up with ideas for winning back some of those voters. Nothing worked, and nothing -- for years to come, at least -- will.

Mr. Romney succeeded with white voters, especially older men, married women, conservatives, Southerners, evangelical Christians, and, narrowly, college graduates. Unmarried white women, though, flocked to Mr. Obama.

The lesson here is obvious -- segments of the population that are growing voted for Mr. Obama, segments that are stagnant or are in decline voted for Mr. Romney.

Texas's Republican chairman, Steve Munisteri, pointed out to the New Yorker just where all this is leading. The white population in Texas, in 2000, was 55 per cent of the total; in 2040, the Latino population, 32 per cent in 2000, will reach 60 per cent. Somewhere in 2014, he said, Hispanics will become the largest voting bloc in Texas.

By 2040, he said, "you'd have to get over a hundred per cent of the Anglo vote" to win and that's not possible, even in post-Lyndon Johnson Texas.

gwbushThe Republican Party is 156 years old and it, like the Democrats, has had its up and downs. After the Barry Goldwater disaster in 1964, pundits said the party was finished. Four years later, it elected Richard Nixon. Pundits, with triangulating Bill Clinton in the White House, said a Democratic era had arrived. Mr. Clinton was followed by George W. Bush, a Republican.

Republicans these days don't want to think about George Bush, and yet he sympathized with Latinos and supported their causes, both as governor of Texas and as President of the United States. As governor, he supported bilingual education and health care for undocumented workers. As President, he supported legislation to open a way to citizenship for millions of immigrants, and conservatives in Congress shot it down.

His brother, Jeb Bush, married to Columba, who grew up in Mexico, and speaking fluent Spanish, did well with Latino voters when he was governor of Florida. He's written a book about immigration that will be published this spring. I'm not sure the country is ready for a third Bush in the White House, but he's the best of the bunch. The other frequently mentioned possibility is Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban parents and the junior senator from Florida. He's sensible on the subject most of the time too.

The Democratic and Republican parties are amazingly resilient. The Republicans will be back, but maybe not as soon as they might wish.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for post-gazette.com during the presidential election. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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