GOP starting to panic over disadvantage among Latinos

“It’s absolutely urgent. The demographics are there in black and white,” said former Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), a casualty of the Hispanic swing to the Democratic Party. “If we don’t figure out a way to open our party up to more Hispanic voters, nothing else we do will matter. Mathematically, we can’t get there from here.”

The math is, in fact, simple. Hispanic voters represented 7.4 percent of the electorate in 2008, up from 6 percent in 2004 and 5.4 percent in 2000. And growing Latino populations in the Midwest and the Carolinas stand to give Democrats an edge in a growing number of swing states.

There are stirrings of a Republican response. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has spoken with Hispanic leaders about creating a new organization to back Latino candidates. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has made minority outreach a priority at the RNC. And some Republicans see an opening if Obama continues to defer action on overhauling immigration.

But so far, there are few visible attempts to reverse the trend.