And if the election were today:
Romney is so hated in the Latino community that he is actually underperforming among Latino Republicans! When the votes are counted, he will be lucky to clear 20 percent. THAT is how toxic the GOP and Romney are to Latinos right now.
So why does this matter? Join me below the fold for how the GOP's Latino problem impacts the broader electoral picture.
In 2008, John McCain won his home state of Arizona by nine points. Sixteen percent of the voters were Latino, and they went to Obama by a 56-41 margin.
Had Arizona Latinos voted Obama 80-20, and had everything else remained the same, it would've been a one-point state, well within the exit poll's margin of error. There's no way Republicans can suffer electoral swings of that magnitude and survive.
Let's look at the swing states with significant Latino populations, how that Latino population performed in 2008, and how the statewide results would've shifted if Latino supported Obama by a 80-20 margin.
(*) North Carolina Latino turnout was too small for the exit polls, so I used Latino performance from the national exit poll.
First thing you might notice is how poor Latino turnout was as a percentage of the population. That's because census data includes undocumented immigrants, and because the Latino population is disproportionately young and not of voting age. Furthermore, there's a bit of apples-and-oranges going on here—the latest census data is from 2010, while the results are from 2008. Given the explosive growth of the Latino population, that could explain some of the disparity.
But no one will contest that the Latino population underperforms in the polls. That's the reason we get "sleeping giant" stories every election cycle. And hey, maybe one of these years, that giant will actually wake! But here's the thing—even if it doesn't wake, Republicans are screwed.
Let's ignore the inevitable boost in Latino performance this year thanks to population growth, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, SB 1070, and the GOP's efforts to kill the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. Let's just assume that Latino turnout will match that of 2008.
But let's assume that Fox News poll is on the right track, and that Romney won't be able to break past 20 percent Latino support—losing that Latino support vis a vis 2008 would mean a dramatic shift in those states' votes. Even North Carolina's 0.7 percent shift would be significant in a state in which Obama won by just 14,000 votes, and will help offset the expected loss of some of Obama's white support.
Note, I didn't do an 80-20 calculation for Florida, since that state's heavily Republican Cuban-American population makes that pretty much impossible. Indeed, McCain did 21 points better in Florida than he did in the country at large. But there's no doubt that losing the non-Cuban vote by such a 80-20 margin would also make Florida that much harder for Republicans to win.
Now here's the kicker—if Latinos help lock down those swing states above for Obama (even excluding Florida), there's no realistic path to a Romney presidency. None. Check it out:
Bank it—Latino turnout will be higher this year than in 2008, and Democrats will fare dramatically better with them than in the past. The short-term prognosis for the GOP is difficult. But remember, this isn't just a short-term phenomenon. Latino growth continues unabated, so this will be an even bigger factor in future election cycles. That's why the smart Republican strategists can't believe their current party's myopia:
[I]t is pretty obvious that we can’t continue to lose Latinos two to one as we did in 2008 and remain competitive as a national party. If we don’t do better among Latinos, we are not going to be talking about how to get back Florida in the presidential race, we are going to be talking about how not to lose Texas.”