“I tell everybody that Trump might be, ironically, the president that saves the GOP when it comes to the Hispanic community because if he passes this DACA legislation, it’s going to be a total 180 as to what he stood for during his campaign,” said Artemio Muniz, the chairman of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans. “He’s going to save the GOP because the GOP itself has not been able to do anything, and we could make the argument to Hispanic communities that it was Donald Trump that actually forced legislation, and the Democratic Party had eight years to do something and never did.”
The decline in Republican support from Hispanics happened over the course of several elections: In 2004, George W. Bush garnered 44 percent of the Hispanic vote compared to John McCain’s 31 percent in 2008 and Mitt Romney’s 27 percent in 2012. Then came Donald Trump. Despite his 2016 win, and slightly better showing among Hispanic voters compared to Romney, Latino Republicans see an opportunity in DACA to correct the course among this segment of the population.
“Over the last number of years, the trajectory has not been great for Republicans with Hispanic voters, include Donald Trump, exclude Donald Trump, the trajectory hasn’t been great. We know that this is a growing piece of the pie here,” a Republican strategist told me, adding that the administration’s success in other areas, like the passage of DACA legislation, could serve as a boost. “This president was dealt this hand after eight years of a predecessor who was unable to pass a law and here we are. There’s risk and there’s opportunity.”
The urgency to coalesce Hispanic voters behind the Republican Party stems from an ongoing shift in voter demographics. Over the years, there’s been a considerable uptick in the number of Hispanic eligible voters, from 23.3 million in 2012 to 27.3 million in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. Of course, there are several factions within the Hispanic community, some of which have long supported the GOP, but Hispanic voters have often leaned Democratic. While their electoral impact has been hindered by low voter turnout, there’s reason to wonder about their influence down the road. For example, a data analysis on 2016 voting, conducted for The Atlantic by Robert Griffin and Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress’s States of Change project, found that the Republican base, made up in part by non-college-educated whites, is shrinking.
The GOP acknowledged a shift in its post-2012 autopsy report. “We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” it read. “If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
Glenn McCall, an RNC committeeman from South Carolina and one of the authors of the report, is confident that Hispanic voters will back the party in upcoming races. “I think it’s going to grow next election cycle, as we look at some state and congressional races, I see that number growing with Hispanics,” he said, adding, “I think it’s going to take some time and we’re going to be persistent about it.”