By John McCormick and Todd Shields
CHICAGO — If demographics are destiny, Democrats are positioned to dominate national politics until Republicans can attract Hispanic voters who shunned their party in the presidential election.
“It’s a huge issue. It’s a big reason why they lost states like Virginia, Florida and Colorado,” said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. “As Hispanics continue to disperse to the South and West — Republican strongholds — the party becomes increasingly at risk.”
As Hispanics make up more of the U.S. population, they also are transforming the country’s politics. In this election, Latino voters represented 10 percent of the electorate, up from 9 percent four years ago.
President Barack Obama captured 71 percent of the Hispanic vote as he won a second term, according to a national exit poll. That translated to a 44 percentage-point advantage over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote — down from Republican shares of 31 percent in 2008, 44 percent in 2004 and 35 percent in 2000.
Beyond the presidential race, 28 Latinos won House seats, including three who defeated Republican incumbents, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund said in a statement. The results added four Hispanic members to the House, creating the largest class of Latino lawmakers, the group said. In the Senate, Hispanics gained a seat with a victory by Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
The survey of voters was conducted as they were leaving polling places, as well as by telephone to measure the preferences of those who voted before the election. The polling was done for the television networks and the Associated Press by Edison Research. Results for the full national sample were subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and higher for subgroups.
“If I were giving advice to the Republican Party, I would say: Work with the Obama administration and get immigration off the table by dealing with it now,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Los Angeles-based NALEO, a membership organization. “Unless there is comprehensive immigration reform this will continue to come up over and over again, and become the Republican Party’s Achilles heel.”