Hispanic voters drifting back to the GOP

Democrats have tried wooing Hispanic voters all year long, and thought they had a golden opportunity in April when Arizona passed a tough immigration-enforcement law.  Barack Obama leaped at the chance to hammer Republicans on immigration reform, spending more time in April and May talking about Arizona’s law than he did about the Gulf oil-spill crisis.  Handwringers in the GOP moaned that Arizona would make it more difficult to attract Hispanic voters whose inclination towards free market economics and pro-life sensibilities would make them a natural constituency for Republicans, or at the least a competitive one.


Hispanic voters’ support for Democratic candidates waned in August and September. As a result, Hispanics in September favored Democrats by a 13-point margin (51% to 38%), compared with 32-point margins in June and July. …

Hispanics present a different problem for the president’s party. While they voted strongly for Obama in 2008 and were supposed to be one of the building blocks of Democratic victory in 2010, Gallup’s recent polling suggests their support for Democratic congressional candidates is slipping. This is in line withHispanics’ dwindling approval of Obama as president, with the initial decline seen in May possibly linked to the Democrats’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Well, that’s certainly one narrative, but not one that makes much sense.  Republicans mainly held firm in their support for Arizona’s new law, and for good reason; it’s been tremendously popular in almost every state.  Obama stopped talking about it during the summer after it became clear that he had lost his grip on the issue, and that people cared more about the economy than anything else.

That includes Hispanic voters.  Gallup assumes that immigration reform is the only issue that matters to Hispanics, but that’s not just ridiculous, it’s also more than a little condescending.  Hispanic voters, like everyone else, have to make a living and pay their bills.  While immigration reform might be more important to them as a bloc than it is to other voting blocs, it seems not to have crossed Gallup’s mind that immigration reform doesn’t impact them directly — since, as voters, they’re already here, most of them by birth.  As the economy soured over the summer, the benefit of the doubt given by these voters dissipated at the same time.

Certainly Obama promised a renewed effort on immigration reform, but he promised it in the fall of last year as something he would address after ObamaCare.  That bill passed in March.  If the disillusionment seen in these numbers resulted from a lack of attention to immigration reform, the erosion would have taken place in April or May, especially since Obama and Congressional Democrats had a perfect opportunity to launch the effort.  And if they have moved away from Democrats on the basis of that failure, they certainly wouldn’t be moving towards Republicans, who want border and visa enforcement and a harder line on illegal immigrants.

The only explanation of the move towards the GOP is the economy and the Recovery Summer bust, which appears to have been the last straw with Hispanic voters.  They want competence and fiscal responsibility, just like most other American voters.