On Fox News, my friend Ann Coulter contributed this sizzling sound bite to the immigration reform debate: “Well, Chuck Schumer is playing Marco Rubio, the Jack Kevorkian of the Republican party.” It was a follow up to a recent column in which she wrote: “Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don’t want amnesty, and they’re hopeless Democrats. So Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!”
Coulter, a bit shorter (and with a bit less hyperbole): Rubio is being suckered into dooming the GOP with permanent minority party status by allowing Democrats to effectively import 11 million new Democratic voters.
That’s a tough charge. Let me respond with three numbers: 775,000, 0, and 45%.
1. The first number refers to the Democratic Hispanic Bonanza Scenario and supposed deluge of 11 million illegal immigrants/undocumented workers. What if all those folks were citizens last November? Well, of that 11 million, only 10 million are adults. And of that 10 million, only 8 million are Latino. And of that 8 million, only 3.5 million would have been voting-age citizens if undocumented Hispanic immigrants became citizens at the rate equal to that of eligible Hispanic immigrants. And of that 3.5 million, only 1.7 million would actually bother to vote. And of that roughly 1.7 million, how many of these new Latino Americans would be net Democratic votes, nationally? Just 775,000 or so, according Harry Enten, polling analyst at The Guardian. So President Obama would have done about a half percentage point better vs. Mitt Romney. Some bonanza.
2. The second number refers to the Electoral College. Wouldn’t those 775,000 net Democratic voters have flipped a few more states Obama’s way? Not one, according to RealClearPolitics polling analyst Sean Trende. Zero. And key swing states would have been only marginally more difficult to win. Obama would have done, for instance, only 0.2 percentage point better in Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Minnesota.
3. The third number refers to the average share of the popular vote that GOP presidential candidates have garnered over the past six elections, a pathetic 45%. Republicans don’t need someone to help them commit political suicide. They’re managing just fine on their own. And that deterioration might accelerate if Americans think the GOP killed immigration reform mainly because the party feared reform would produce more Democratic voters. And why wouldn’t Americans think that given the comments of some conservative pundits such as Coulter.
America is changing. Last year, deaths exceeded births among non-Hispanic white Americans for the first time in at least a century. Immigration reform would begin to detoxify the Republican brand among Hispanics. (A powerful signaling move for Asians and young people, too). If Republicans could boost their Hispanic vote share by just three percentage points from 2012, Trende notes, “it would completely wipe out the expected vote gain for Democrats among these new voters.”
The combo of immigration reform (broadly construed) and — this is just as key — a market-populist economic agenda that appealed to middle-income Americans might end the long-term GOP death spiral.