Time Magazine caused a commotion this month with a bilingual cover that features the phrases “Yo decido,” and in English, “I decide,” alongside the bold proclamation, “Why Latinos will pick the next President.” They are right: given the number of Latino voters, and the critical states in which they reside, their support will play a decisive role in this year’s elections.
While the cover may have created a splash, representations of the piece have been a belly flop, out of step with the actual content of the article. One of the 15 portraits of Latinos that graced the cover of the magazine was actually a non-Latino. And on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Richard Stengel, editor of Time, reasserted the common misconception that the Latino vote is “up in the air.” According to Stengel, Latinos are “independent.”
That’s just not true. Latinos have consistently voted for Democrats. Even Republican strategists will readily admit that the goal isn’t to win a majority of Hispanic voters, it’s simply to peal enough support away from Obama to contribute to a larger electoral calculus. George W. Bush, who was incredibly popular with Hispanics, hit a high water mark at 44%. For Republicans, those numbers, not a majority, are the baseline winning formula.
Moreover, recent polling shows Latinos decisively breaking for Democrats. In the latest Univision/Latino Decisions poll, President Obama enjoys a 72% favorability rating among all Hispanics. Romney and Gingrich’s favorability ratings are at 28% and 24% respectively. In a head to head match-up, Obama beats Romney 65-25, Gingrich 70-22.
Republicans point to Republican-sponsored polls showing Obama’s underperforming his 2008 numbers as proof that Latinos are weary, but even in those polls, Obama beats a generic Republican 46-39.
Up in the air? Really?
Stengel’s comment doesn’t even comport with his magazine’s own reporting. “In every presidential contest since 1992, Republicans have won, at minimum, about a quarter of the Latino vote, and Democrats have won at least half,” Michael Scherer, the author of the well-crafted piece explains. “Up for grabs in most years is the remaining 25%.” In other words, those that have always been there for the taking are still there, but they do not represent a majority of Latino voters, nor have their numbers increased.
Swing Hispanic voters, like all swing voters, are up for grabs, but that doesn’t mean that
Latinos as a whole could break for Republicans.