Blowing Holes in Latino Vote Mythology

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on September 26, 2010

The Wall Street Journal – whose editorial position is for open borders – reports that more Republican candidates for federal and state office this year are Latino. Furthermore, many prominent GOP Hispanic candidates are taking a hard line on immigration.

The Journal story names Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senate candidate in Florida; Susana Martinez, candidate for New Mexico governor; and Brian Sandoval, seeking the governorship in Nevada. These and other GOP candidates who happen to be Hispanic share positions on immigration issues with the majority of Republican voters, independents and Americans. They oppose amnesty and support Arizona's S.B. 1070.

Other elements of the Journal story repeat untruths that pass for "conventional wisdom" in Washington. One is the line that Sen. John McCain did much more poorly with Latino voters in 2008 than George W. Bush had in 2004. McCain garnered just 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Bush had taken 39 percent four years earlier.

A couple of things expose the implication put forth here by the untruth tellers. They imply that opposition to amnesty lost the GOP votes among Latino voters. But as political scientist James Gimpel wrote in his post-2008-election Backgrounder, "There is little evidence that immigration policy was an influential factor in Latinos' choice between the two candidates once basic party predispositions are taken into account."

There's the inconvenient truth that McCain got about the same number of Latino votes as Bush had in 2004. Both were outspoken pro-amnesty Republicans. However, Bush had so poisoned the political atmosphere by the close of his second term (diametrically opposite the era of good feelings that Reagan had left his successor, Bush's father) that virtually every identifiable voting bloc suppressed Republican voting and cast vastly higher Democrat votes. As Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute put it, "Hispanics shifted away from Republican candidate John McCain at virtually the same rate that the entire electorate did."

Then there's the fact that Latino voters don't seem fixated on immigration issues when choosing the candidate they'll vote for. A 2008 WCVI exit poll identified jobs and the economy together as the primary issue driving 57 percent of Hispanic voters' electoral decision. Only 1.6 percent named immigration as their driving issue in the election, putting that issue in ninth place.

It would be nice of some of these candidates win office and finally start to bust the myth that all Latino Americans are as rabidly open-borders as the zealots from gerrymandered districts who populate the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the upper echelons of the GOP.