Linda Chavez

The GOP has lost important ground to Democrats in recent years because the party is viewed overwhelmingly by Hispanics as unfriendly to them. As I've written many times, Hispanic voters aren't monolithic in their support of Democrats. Going back more than 40 years, a significant proportion of Hispanics has voted for Republican candidates. Indeed, in the poll, 51 percent of respondents say they have voted for a GOP candidate in the past.

The overwhelming majority of Hispanics who are registered to vote consider themselves moderate (28 percent), conservative (23 percent) or very conservative (13 percent). While Hispanics are not as suspicious of government as many Republican voters are -- 51 percent see government as a help in their daily lives -- they prefer smaller government and lower taxes over higher taxes and more services by more than two to one. They also see government's role as promoting opportunity, not fairness, by almost as high of a margin.

But the most important finding in the poll is the way in which a candidate's position on immigration reform might influence a voter's choice. Three-quarters of Hispanic voters said they would be more likely to listen to a Republican candidate's views on other issues if the candidate supported immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Cantor's loss shouldn't be read as a referendum on immigration reform. The only thing it proves is that being wishy-washy on reform leaves a candidate open to attacks by extremists on the issue who will gladly exploit the candidate's own fears into becoming reality. Graham's principled defense of his stance is the right model -- and the only one that gives Republicans a prayer of ever winning the White House again.

Linda Chavez

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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