In the 2010 midterm elections, Latino candidates won big. They scored major gains in all levels of government, and for the first time ever, three Latino candidates won top statewide office. It was a major triumph for one particular political party, the Republican Party. The GOP put up two Hispanic Governors, five Hispanic Congressmen, and one Hispanic Senator. It was an incredible week.
In Nevada, Republican Attorney General Brian Sandoval became the first Latino Governor in the history of their state. In New Mexico, Republican Attorney General Susanna Martinez became the first Latina Governor in U.S. history. In Washington, Republican Jaime Herrera became the first Latina Congresswoman in the state. In Idaho, Republican Raul Labrador became the first Latino Congressman in their state's history. And in Florida, Republican Marco Rubio is quickly becoming a rising star of the Republican Party.
The 2010 midterm election proved to be a Republican year. Republicans not only reclaimed the U.S. House of Representatives, they made serious advancements in diversifying their party leadership. This midterm, the Republican Party fully supported Latino candidates making some inroads with the Hispanic community despite a post-SB1070 political environment. But will the GOP follow through on their wins?
Data shows that the Hispanic community is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the U.S. populace. By 2020, Hispanics are estimated to make up 20% of the U.S. population. Similar projections show they will be a majority in Texas by the same year. If current voting trends remain the same and 65% of Latinos continue to vote Democrat, then it will introduce a problem for the GOP.
Texas is a reliable red state and has been for the past 30 years. Each election cycle, Texas awards the GOP with 34 electoral votes. If the GOP were to lose Texas, it would deliver a fatal wound to the party. The GOP must adapt. If there is anything that shows the politics of yesteryear will no longer work, let it be the Senate election of Nevada.
Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate, chose to alienate Nevada's Hispanic community in an attempt to shore up her conservative base. Angle spent millions in ads trying to characterize Majority Leader Harry Reid as a sympathizer to illegal immigration. And this wouldn't have been a bad election strategy if she didn't featured all Hispanics as mischievous hoodlums.
Nevada's Hispanic community wasn't pleased; they punished her severely. Although Hispanic voters vote 65% of the time with Democrats, in Nevada they voted 90% for Harry Reid. Angle lost the election by a 6% vote margin. If she had just toned it down on the anti-immigrant talk, the voters of Nevada could have sent a loud and clear message to Washington.
Despite a post-SB1070 world, Republicans have made gains in the Hispanic community. Pew Research showed that 64% of Latinos voted for Democrat candidates last week. And although that seems high, it is a 5% drop from the 2006 election. With fewer Latinos voting Democrat and more Latino leaders under the GOP banner, Republicans have the winds at their back. If they make illegal immigration a primary focus, they will squander their gains and forfeit the keys of the kingdom to Democrats.