While it may be possible for Republicans to peel away some of the 43 percent of white voters who pulled the lever for Obama in 2008, this seems a dubious strategy. Though no Democrat since 1964 has won a majority of the white vote, an irreducible core of white voters does stick with Democrats. Obama's percentage of the white vote was two points above John Kerry's, and one point below Bill Clinton's re-elect percentage. The 41 to 44 percent of whites (to take the last four elections) who vote Democrat are almost certainly left/liberals.
Hispanics are not ideologically committed. Not yet. George W. Bush received a respectable 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. As Clint Bolick outlined in the Hoover Digest, a 2006 survey by Latino Coalition found that 34.2 percent of Hispanic voters considered themselves conservative, while only 25.8 called themselves liberals. More than 53 percent agreed that it was more important for Hispanics to become integrated into American society than to preserve their native cultures. Offered a choice between higher taxes and more government spending or lower taxes and less government spending, 61.2 percent favored the latter. Moreover, like other Americans, Hispanics tend to vote more Republican as they age.
Hispanic voters do feel very differently from many conservatives about immigration. Pew found that 53 percent of Hispanics worried about deportation in 2007, including 32 percent of the native born, and also that 55 percent opposed verification of citizenship before obtaining driver's licenses.
Republicans who favor strong measures to limit illegal immigration should not sacrifice their principles to truckle for votes.
But neither should they blindly blunder into a political wilderness for lack of finesse. Republicans must take care to couch their opposition to illegal immigration in the overall context of welcoming legal immigrants and appreciating the contribution of immigrants overall. Recruiting Hispanic candidates ought to be a high priority.
The Democrats are losing ground with all segments of the American electorate except African-Americans. Republicans must tread carefully to avoid alienating the important Hispanic vote.