Republicans need all the votes they can get next November if they are to have any hope of retaining the White House and winning back control of Congress. But one group of voters -- among whom the GOP has gained considerable ground over the last few elections -- now seems about to slip away, perhaps permanently.
Hispanic voters are poised to turn several red states blue come 2008, virtually guaranteeing a Democratic presidential victory and a pickup in congressional seats as well, according to a new analysis of Hispanic voting behavior. "Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote," released by the conservative group Americas Majority Foundation, demonstrates that congressional Republicans' ham-handed approach to immigration will cost them dearly at the polls.
Richard Nadler, the study's author, analyzed 2006 voting patterns in 145 Hispanic precincts or voting blocs in three congressional districts in the Southwest. In each district, candidates who favored an enforcement-only approach faced opponents who favored comprehensive immigration reform, including a guest worker program and a path to legalization for illegal aliens. Nadler found that the enforcement-only approach significantly eroded support for the Republican candidates among Hispanic voters from their 2004 levels, and in each case the Republican lost the seat.
In Arizona's 5th district, six-term GOP incumbent Rep. J.D. Hayworth actually switched positions on immigration from being a sponsor of guest worker legislation to becoming one of the most outspoken opponents of immigration, even advocating a moratorium on legal immigration from Mexico. In 2004, Hayworth received almost as many Hispanic votes as his Democrat opponent, with each receiving about 48 percent; but in 2006, Hayworth lost 59-36 percent in Hispanic precincts.
In the 8th district of Arizona, a pro-comprehensive reform Republican, incumbent Jim Kolbe, retired, and the Republican nominee, Randy Graf, made illegal immigration the centerpiece of his campaign. In 2004, Rep. Kolbe won almost 43 percent of the vote in Hispanic precincts. In 2006, Graf won barely 18 percent of those precincts' votes -- and Republicans lost the election 54-42 percent.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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