Maybe the Latino vote will prove pivotal in 2020, maybe in 2024, but this time around, it is very unlikely to decide who wins the White House. The reason immigration will not be a big issue in 2016 is fairly simple. The states that have a big Hispanic population and have big Electoral College vote numbers—California, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Illinois—will not be in play in the 2016 presidential election. And the swing states—where campaign spending and message building will be the strongest—have relatively small Hispanic populations and no border fence issues in their backyards. On top of all that, immigration is not the primary concern for most Hispanic voters.
Deep thinkers in the Republican Party constantly say that the future of the party is based on outreach to groups like Hispanics. But wooing Hispanics isn’t currently a major concern for Republicans on the campaign trail. “I have heard many of the conservative policy people talk about what we need to do to win elections in 2020 and 2024, how the Latino vote is an important part of that, but the [GOP presidential] candidates and the campaigns aren’t thinking about future elections right now for obvious reasons,” says one Republican consultant who didn’t want his name used. “They aren’t even thinking about next year right now. They are thinking about next week.”
In order for Hispanics to have made the difference in the 2012 election, they would have had to flip from 70 percent supporting Obama to 70 percent supporting Romney, a move that would have given the Republican enough Electoral College votes to win. The swing in the Hispanic vote needed in 2016 is likely to be similarly large.
Given those realities, it is not hard to see why Donald Trump calling undocumented Mexicans “rapists” faded away without much angst from the GOP.