HISPANIC VOTE KEY
BY DICK MORRIS
November 4, 2004 -- GEORGE W. Bush was re-elected on Tuesday because the Hispanic vote, long a Democratic Party preserve, shifted toward the president's side.
The USA Today exit poll shows Hispanics, who had voted for Al Gore by 65 percent to 35 percent, supported Kerry by only 55 to 43. Since Hispanics accounted for 12 percent of the vote, their 10-point shift meant a net gain for Bush of 2.4 percent which is most of the improvement in his popular-vote share.
The other two pillars of the Democratic Party citadel remained intact. John Kerry carried blacks by 89-11, only two points less than Gores 2000 showing of 91-9. The Democrat won the votes of single women by 63-36, even as Bush was winning 54 percent of married women to Kerry's 45 percent.
In America today, the Democratic Party is a demographic institution, anchored by its appeal to blacks, Hispanics and single women. Together, these three groups, a combined one-third of the electorate, voted 4 to 1 for Kerry and accounted for more than half of the Democrat's votes. The Republican Party is an intellectual and economic peer group that carries everyone who is not black or Hispanic or a single woman by 2 to 1.
So any crack in the demographic Democratic phalanx is historic and could herald a major party realignment, the first since blacks started to vote Democrat and Southern whites voted Republican in the late '60s/early '70s.
Bush has worked incredibly hard for his Hispanic vote share. He reversed historic Republican Party positions on issues of importance to Hispanics and showed a willingness to listen to the needs of the Latino community.
A Republican-passed denial disability and other Social Security benefits to documented foreigners who pay into the system (part of the 1996 welfare reform) was reversed under pressure from GOP governors like New York's George Pataki in 1997. And Bush has endorsed a limited amnesty for undocumented workers who are willing to become legal and to begin the path to citizenship.
If the GOP doesn't continue its inroads among Hispanics, even core Republican states like Texas will flip to the Democrats. The Census now puts Texas at 49.5 percent minority. It is not hard to see it switching to a blue state, as California has done, unless Bush's drawing power among Hispanics becomes institutional in the Republican Party.
Social-values issues are likely part of the reason for the Hispanic vote for Bush is likely. Always more Catholic than they were liberal, Latino voters are among those who cited values as most influencing their vote. But, beyond this is the fact that Hispanics are behaving like any other immigrant population drifting toward the GOP after they have begun to establish themselves economically.
Determined not to remain united, one-party and politically inert as the African-American population has been, Hispanics are up for grabs and are eagerly cultivating their reputation as America's most sought-after ethnic vote.
Bush's efforts to connect the War on Terror with keeping families safe worked wonders, winning him 54 percent of married women. But among single women, Bush got only 36 percent of the vote, almost 20 points shy of his performance among married females.
The social issues, which cut so well in luring Hispanics to the Republican fold, are killing the GOP among single women who are 38 percent of all women. The party can ill afford to write off so large a vote.
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