Political Animal


February 19, 2013 11:20 AM The Coffin of the Bush Coalition

By Ed Kilgore

TNR’s Nate Cohn is just the latest of many to point out that Marco Rubio’s putative “savior of the Republican Party” status may be based on a serious misunderstanding of the multiple sources of Latino Democratic support, and of the very limited ability of a Cuban-American right-winger to reduce it.

But Cohn adds something to the discussion that is perhaps more important: even the best-case scenario for the impact of a Rubio presidential candidacy on Latinos probably involves too few votes to overcome the continuing pro-Democratic demographic drift:

Could the combination of Rubio’s ethnicity and his support for immigration reform yield the gains Republicans need? Not likely, if the GOP plans on winning from those gains alone. The president won by nearly 4 points last November and, according to the exit polls, Latinos represented just 10 percent of the electorate. Gaining a net-4 points out of 10 percent of the electorate is extremely difficult—it would require the Republicans to gain 20 points among Latino voters, if all other groups are held constant. In other words, it would require the GOP to draw a higher percentage of the Latino vote than ever before. Worse still, the Electoral College reduces the significance of Latino voters, who are concentrated in uncompetitive states and play a negligible role in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and the other Midwestern battlegrounds. Even in states where Latinos play a more significant role, like Colorado, Obama’s margins of victory were too great for Republican to expect that gains among Hispanics would flip the state red.

Republicans have been comforting themselves that they ought to be able to get back to the performance among Latinos of their last president, George W. Bush. But that’s not enough any more. As Cohn puts it:

In fact, Rubio’s appeal risks trapping the GOP within the coffin of the Bush coalition at a time when they need to figure out how to break out of it.

The idea of putting together a majority by solidifying the GOP’s white conservative “base” and pulling votes from a few swing voter categories (e.g., Latinos, married women) via strategic policy initiatives was at the very heart of Karl Rove’s strategy for W., which collapsed amidst large-scale defections during Bush’s second term. It would be harder than ever today, particularly if its vehicle is someone like Rubio, who is only a super-star to his fellow hard-core conservatives, desperate for any electoral strategy other than a basic reevaluation of GOP ideology.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on February 19, 2013 11:44 AM:

    I had a similar conversation with my politically conservative (small "c") wife, who is also black. She doesn't quite get why I think that Rubio's appeal is badly limited. Even pointing out that it would be akin to her being obligated to vote for, say, Allen West or Herman Cain (both of whom we both despise) due solely to her skin color hasn't entirely gotten through.

    On the up-side, I'm not sure Rubio has any real staying power. He appears about as dim, personalitywise, as GWB. Whether that's a fair estimation or not remains to be seen.

  • Mimikatz on February 19, 2013 12:02 PM:

    GOPsters really don't understand the diversity of the Latino vote and the big gulf between Cuban-Americans and Mexican/Central -American-Americans. They are really different, and there has been some animosity toward Cubans immigrants, who get special treatment.

    And married women are changing away from the GOP on the gun issue. In the SF Chronicle this am was a lomg article about how women view the gun issue as an issue of children's safety, not gun rights. (Duh). Most moms are married women, so that issue cuts against the Rove project as well.

  • c u n d gulag on February 19, 2013 12:09 PM:

    Joseph K,
    Yes, you're right - he's dim.

    But it's not like Republicans don't know how to fluff-up dimwits.

    Two out of the last three Republican President were as dim as the low-spark of a high-heeled girl dancing in a Super Bowl half-time show at a fully-lit stadium, but that didn't stop them from being able to sell "dim" as 'amiable.'

    I can see him running with the motto "Marco Rubio: Staying thirsty, my friends - FOR YOU AND AMERICAN VALUES!"

    And enough idiots in America might vote for him, because they'll want to have a Dos Equis with him, and then he can finish the job Nixon started, and Reagan and W worked hard on - destroying this countries safety-net programs.

  • j on February 19, 2013 1:09 PM:

    Agree with the above, I think Rubio is dim, I think it is also a fools errand for him to rush off to Israel to get a 5 minute lesson on the situation in that part of the world.
    I think most hispanics can look at him and see a false
    ally for their rights, he is trying to come up with a plan while holding his nose, he does not give a toss for them, only their votes.I think they are not fooled.

  • john sherman on February 19, 2013 2:04 PM:

    Mimikatz makes an excellent point: not all brown people are alike, in fact some aren't even brown. In addition to the Cubans and Mexican/Central Americans, there are Puerto Ricans and Latinos whose families have been in the U.S. since the 17th C.

  • jklk; on February 19, 2013 3:46 PM:

    The alleged savior is already making $h^t up about his family and distorting the president's record, much like his heroes Myth Rob-me and Paul Ayn Ryan. A perfect GOP candidate--say stuff that can be politi-facted in seconds, revealing the lie. Makes him seem not so tech smart.

    Nothing to be proud of either:


    Stay thirsty for sure.

  • Robs on February 19, 2013 4:52 PM:

    As noted above, us Latins are a disparate lot! Within my extended family are Argentinians, Cubans, Mexicans, Chileans, Hondurans, Puerto Ricans, and Colombians. We can never agree on ANYTHING politically!

    Good luck with that GOP...

  • Vicente Fox on February 19, 2013 4:52 PM:

    I think the Rethug strategy is that Rubio will deliver Florida, and that, combined with voter-suppression and other dirty tricks elsewhere, will be enough to give them the 50.1% that is all they really need.