Being the fastest growing group of Americans in our evenly ideologically divided country means that Hispanic-Americans will have a disproportionately larger impact on the November elections than their percentage of the population suggestsâ€”and it has the absolute potential to spell defeat for down ballot Republicans and Mitt Romney.
Digging into the polling and census data on Hispanic-Americans reveals two factors that have been overlooked in much of the political analysisâ€”1) Obamacare will likely seal up the Latino vote for President Obama, and 2) they are motivated by different issues than other Americans.
While every American has the absolute right to vote for a candidate using whatever reasons they choose, the fact of the matter is that the Hispanic community has uniquely much more to gain from the American government than any other sub-sect of voters. The following facts tell the story:
1. Their vote has the power to potentially grant legal status to not only their friends, neighbors, and extended familiesâ€”but in many cases their own parents.
2. Hispanic-Americans have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. In 2010, 30.7% of the Hispanic population was not covered by health insurance.
3. In 2010 the Hispanic/Latino family median income was $37,359, compared to $54,620 for non-Hispanic families.
4. Based on a June 2012 Gallop Poll, 20% of U.S Hispanics regarded immigration reform as a top issue they would consider in voting, compared to only 8% of U.S adults. Additionally, only 7% said the Federal budget deficit was paramount, compared to 18% of U.S adults.
5. Perhaps most tellingly, a 2011 Univision poll finding that a whopping 59% of Latino voters said they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate with an economic plan that they supported if that candidate talked about illegal immigration as a crime.
While the Univision study is perhaps most shocking, lets first take a look at the other facts. Under Obamacare a family of four with a yearly income of $30,000 or below is provided health insurance by Medicaid. A family of four making $37,000 annually, the average Hispanic family income, will be able to receive a “bronze” level insurance plan for free. This means that every Latino family making at or below the average yearly income will be provided insurance at no cost.
In terms of Hispanic voter motivation it is often said, including by Conservatives, that Latinos largely will vote in November based on what most Americans willâ€”the economy. Though certainly not true for every Latino voter, as a group the polling data suggests that by any measure their political considerations and concerns are very different from other Americans. They are generally far less concerned with annual deficits and the National debt than all other voters registered in either political party (7% compared to 18%), and are far more concerned with passing immigration reform (20% compared to 8%).
The most stunning proof of this difference in motivation at the ballot box is the Univision poll revealing that nearly 60% of registered Latinos would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate whom they agreed with on the economy, if that person spoke of illegal immigration as a crime. Of course the irony here is that it is a crime, and if it is ever to be made not a crime we would be the only nation on earth without enforced bordersâ€”clearly a reckless and disastrous policy position.
The takeaways here are that Mitt Romney has an almost impossible lift with the vast majority of Hispanic-American voters. It is my contention that, even more than suing Arizona over SB 1070 and issuing the Executive Directive to curb immigration law enforcement, the passing of Obamacare has put the Latino demographic solidly in the Obama column.
Simply put, the Republican Party and Mitt Romney will never be able to compete with a Democratic Party willing to promise every Latino in the country who falls at or below the national income average cost-free health insurance. Nor will Republicans ever be able to compete with a political party able to offer, in essence, the ability to make their friends, extended families, and even their own parents, legal U.S residents. It is worth noting that this offer is made even more compelling in that, should Obamacare stand, the free health insurance associated with this citizenship status would also be extended to the voters friends and family.
Romney’s strong immigration stance and adamant opposition to Obamacare, combined with these scale-tipping Democratic offerings of future benefits, ensures realistically competing for the Hispanic vote is a lost cause. The repercussions of this on the race a two-fold. First, if he is to select Marco Rubio as his VP he should do it only on Rubio’s individual merits, because this will not sway a significant number of Latinos. Second, the success of his pitch to the other demographics in play is elevated in importance.
In recent weeks the level of nervousness among Republicans and Conservatives has been escalating, as Romneyâ€™s message and policy proposals have so far not shown the resonance that one might expect. While those on the right give him due credit for not pandering, given the reality that he would be fortunate to win a third of the Latino voteâ€¦this near panic is more than justified.