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Red Dawn: Why SA is the GOP’s Best Bet for the Future

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Bexar County GOP chairman Robert Stovall with state Rep. Joe Straus at the grand opening of the Bexar County GOP headquarters last week

“Republicans are finally starting to realize that Hispanic outreach goes beyond waving from the back of a limo in Laredo,” quipped Morgan. Zapata confirmed as much, saying “for the first time, we’re contacting Hispanic groups and leaders … we want to build relationships, basically … it’s hard to go to a person you’ve never met before and say ‘hey, vote for us.’”

Indeed, ignoring Latinos has not worked in the GOP’s favor, as the last election painfully drove home to Party leaders. Nationally, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama, up four points from the previous presidential election. In Bexar County, which did not breakdown ethnic statistics (but we’re approximately 60 percent Hispanic), we put Obama on top by about five percentage points. In 2010, we just barely broke for Bill White over Rick Perry, by less than 2,000 votes.

The saving grace for Republicans in recent elections has been Latinos’ low voter turn-out and eligibility in Texas. Though we rank second in both the size and percentage of our Latino population nationally, when it comes to eligible voters within the state’s Hispanic population, it was just 44 percent in 2010, according to a Pew Research report. Of the total population of eligible voters in Texas, Latinos made up a little more than a quarter 2010. Yet within that data, the largest population of eligible Latino voters came from those ages 18-44, giving Hispanics the biggest percentage of young voters of any other ethnic or racial demographic.

As a whole, the Latino vote might not be entirely lost for the GOP, despite 2012’s damning numbers. At least in Texas, and especially in Bexar County, Latinos are a bit coy about siding as a bloc with one Party or the other. “If we think of the three main ethnic racial groups in Texas,” said Jones, “African-Americans are a solid Democrat vote, Republicans realize they have little chance there. Likewise, Democrats have a hard time winning the Anglo vote. With the Hispanic vote, it’s more volatile in that Hispanic voting patterns are not set in stone.” Henson and Jones both noted that, with the current state electoral make up, Republicans don’t even need to worry about gaining the majority of the Latino vote, they just need a decent chunk, like the Abbott campaign’s goal of 40 percent. “What the GOP can’t afford to do is alienate Hispanics so they vote more like African-Americans,” said Jones.

While some pundits claim that most Latinos would side with conservatives on social issues due to their largely Catholic faith, there’s no data to support that. In fact, a 2011 poll by impreMedia and Latino Decisions showed less than a quarter of Latinos polled said their religion had a “big impact” on their voting choices, while 75 percent felt the economy and taxes were more important. What public opinion poll results do say, according to Henson, is that Latino voters are “not as conservative as Republicans, but more conservative than the average Democrat.”

That analysis, coupled with Bexar County statistics from elections (I looked as far back as 2000), is the other main reason even the national GOP has come knocking on SA’s doors instead of honing in on, say, El Paso, Laredo or McAllen—territories that Jones says the GOP considers as good as lost.

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