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As Obama falters, are Hispanics an opportunity for GOP?

Nicole McCleskey

With much speculation about Hispanics and the 2012 election, we thought it worth taking a look. Anecdotally you hear whispers (some louder than others) about President Obama’s erosion in the Hispanic community – that Hispanics are turning against him headed into 2012. But is it true?

In 2008, Obama received 66 percent of the Hispanic vote, an impressive showing that propelled him to the defeat of John McCain. The high level of support in the Hispanic community lasted through his inaugural year in office. As the NBC/Wall Street Journal data library demonstrates, Obama posted approval ratings of 67 percent in February 2009 and 72 percent in October of the same year.

But, Obama’s slide among Hispanics began in 2010, and continues. Across the entire 2010 year, Obama averaged a 60 percent approval rating among Hispanic voters. In the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, conducted in late August, his approval rating dipped to 57 percent. And, in the latest Gallup survey, just 48 percent of Hispanics approve of the job Obama has done.

Even more telling are his approval numbers for his handling of the economy. Upon entering office, 71 percent of Hispanics approved of Obama’s handling of the economy. Fast forward to August 2011, and his economic approval rating his dropped to 50 percent among Hispanic voters.

These numbers in themselves are not horribly bad. But combined with the president’s demise among white voters, the math to get to 50 percent is harder for Team Obama. As my partner Glen Bolger wrote in a post you can find here: “If the GOP shaves a few points off of Obama’s 2008 percentage with Hispanics (which was 66 percent), that will be very costly to him.”

In fact, the August NBC/WSJ survey suggests Obama will have trouble getting close to the 66 percent share of the Hispanic vote in 2012. Today, just 51 percent of Hispanic voters say they would cast their vote to re-elect Obama, while 35 percent would choose the Republican candidate. Of course, the game changes when there is an actual GOP nominee, but one can start to see the prospect of the GOP shaving off a few points among Hispanics.

Dems haven’t lost Hispanics, but there is trouble

Does this mean Obama and Democrats have “lost” Hispanic voters? No. The image rating of The Republican Party through 2011 is just 26 percent positive and 42 percent negative. In fact, the Republican Party has done little to alter its image among Hispanics since 2009, when the image rating was 25 percent positive/40 percent negative.


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The Democratic Party is still viewed considerably more favorably at 47 percent positive/23 percent negative, but even that’s a far cry from the 60 percent positive in February of 2009.

Encouraging for Republican congressional candidates is the “who would you prefer control Congress” question. In 2010 through the course of the year, Dems enjoyed an almost two-to-one margin (30 percent GOP/59 percent Dem, or -29 percent), which has narrowed over two surveys this summer to 36 percent GOP/56 percent Dem (-20 percent).

All this suggests that yes, Obama has trouble with Hispanics that he can ill-afford, and it may have repercussions down-ballot. Hispanic voters have not bolted en masse, but that doesn’t have to happen to tilt the balance to a Republican, considering Obama’s serious problems among white voters.

Longer-term, Republicans must seize an opportunity to connect with Hispanic voters. Obama’s loss is not necessarily the Republicans’ gain. Republicans need to move toward systemic success as opposed to isolated victories if we are to consistently compete for the Hispanic vote.

In 2010, individual Republican candidates proved that they could win significant shares of the Hispanic vote, but the GOP has yet to change the overall brand. Obama’s slippage with Hispanics might be enough to score some victories in 2012, but as the demographics of the country continue to shift, it will not be enough to sustain us in the years ahead.

Nicole McCleskey is a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, which is a national public opinion research company. POS currently polls for 20 U.S. senators, six governors, and more than 70 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. POS is also the Republican polling partner for the NBC/Wall Street Journal and two-time recipient of Pollster of the Year by the American Association of Political Consultants. POS polled for Gov. Susana Martinez, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, and dozens of legislative races in New Mexico.

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11 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Ramirez

    People are tired and ready for change.

    Ramirez your “ready for change” statement is true but the facts are: Just like the nation elected Obama on his platform for change. We got change for certain, but not change for the better. This state elected Susana on the same platform, claiming change. We are getting change from this administration in name only–still in taking care of your own. Trace the appointments that have placed those that came from Susana’s district attorney’s office, her election staff and contributors. I like many others supported her, but unless Susana changes for New Mexico instead of herself I predict many will not continue to support her. Is would be difficult to be worst than the past administration, but it seems the new administration is at least trying to match the past efforts.
    Additionally, I will tell you the governor’s office and staff are very selective about responding, if ever, when asked a question or paying attention to details that cast a bad light on one of her own.

  2. Pretty interesting to me that an article that doesn’t even mention Susana’s name starts generating whole lot of comments about her and her relationship with the McCleskeys. Wondering if she realizes this whole suspicion that she isn’t the one in control of things is becoming a distraction and that people are losing their confidence in her.

    Susana, get yourself away from these political types. You don’t need ‘em cause they’ll only cause you more trouble than they already have. Too many people feel like they’ve got to call some woman in Hobbs for an appointment or write a big check to your new PAC or meet you at some fancy ranch just to bend your ear about a business issue or two. Calls don’t get returned by your staff in Santa Fe. Folks like me remember what it was like to work with Bruce and Garrey and Gary and we were hoping you’d be something like them.

  3. Ramirez (McCleskey supporter/worshiper), it figures you would automatically assume that I’m a Democrat just because I’m not enamored with the McCleskey Machine that is apparently running state government. No, Ramirez, I’m a Republican, but not one like you that is drinking the kool-aid. I guess you actually believe Susana Martinez is in charge!

    What we have now is a Republican administration that is turning out to be just as bad as any Democrat administration that has preceded it. You obviously aren’t bothered by the fact that we are being governed by the McCleskeys, the Darnells, the Gardners, etc., etc., etc. as JusticeP has noted. I don’t have evidence that they have paid to play either. But I sure know they aren’t the “best and the brightest” that Susana said she would attract and hire.

    There’s only one reason all these second rate people got jobs on the fourth floor (and beyond); it’s because their job interview was held on the “fifth” floor.

  4. Soledad – Your party was shellacked this last election because of their lack of attention to ethics. I have no obligation to join the democrats and their continued tour of destruction that has left this state in a quagmire for years to come. You can see the difference from the past 8 years, less pay, less employees on the teat and a more efficient government. It will take some time to clean the mess, but I know this Governor has the will to make it happen.

    Face the facts, you are afraid of the fact that the Democratic party is quickly declining in this state. People are tired and ready for change.

  5. Oh really Justice? Just because couples are hired that is a bad thing? Maybe they are married, but there is no indication that they have “paid to play” like the previous administration.

    Brushy – I am a hispanic and there is no way in hell I support the “dream act” or any variation of it. I am still paying my student loans like anyone else. I didn’t need a handout simply because I’m Hispanic. You sound like Harry Reid. You have NO right to tell me how to vote. You party has offered nothing to me that would convince me to agree with their policies.

  6. If any Hispanic voters listened to the Republican candidate’s Tea Party “debate” on CNN the other night, they would run the opposite direction from the “Grand Old Party.” The answers regarding immigration were apallingly shallow. Perry was jeered by the audience for suggesting that Texas’ version of the “Dream Act” would be something any governor would even consider. You have to be crazy as a Hispanic to vote Republican, at least based on most of the candidates currently foisted on the American public.

  7. Republicans in New Mexicans need to wake up. We don’t need the McCleskey’s to win elections here. We’d probably win more and would be a unified party if they weren’t involved at all.  Make up your mind Nicole, you can’t keep manipulating numbers to beneift you or your flavor-of-the-election cycle candidate!

  8. It seems to me that this article applies an airbrush over what Nicole McCleskey really thinks about the Hispanic vote. Just the other day, she was quoted in newspapers around the country saying:

    what’s going to be the key factor in 2012 is Obama’s poor performance among white voters. Because he is doing poorly among white voters, it decreases the necessity of the Republican candidate getting to that 40 percent figure.”

    So basically, we don’t need you Hispanics this year. We’ll pander to you when we really need you. Now, Nicole, wouldn’t that be “suicidal” for the Republicans in 2012 and beyond?

  9. If the GOP only realized what an opportunity there is… I recently came across this great article about the missed opportunity, check it out: http://politicsroom.com/2011/07/25/tequilaparty/

  10. Ms. McCleskey asks: “As Obama falters, are Hispanics an opportunity for GOP?”
    In those immortal words from the ’60s, you bet your sweet bippy. And as the election results from earlier this week show, the disgust with Obama will lead many other ethnic groups and constituencies to come out of the wooodwork to vote against him and his agenda, even in noramlly very safe Democrat areas.

  11. How about all those happy couples working for Susana? First, there is Scott Darnell hired as the Gov’s communications director followed by the hiring of Darnell’s wife, Alexis Valdez Darnell, to a plum job next to her hubby on the Fourth Floor. Then there’s the smiling McCleskeys. They’re smiling because Jay is the Gov’s chief operative and making his pay as head of Susana’s PAC while wife Nicole is a pollster who is been doing work for the state GOP.

    Now joining those in wedded bliss under the watchful eye of Susana is none other than her chief of staff–Keith Gardner. His wife, Stephanie, just landed a $67,000 year job at the public education department. The critics will call all this borderline nepotism and not the “bold change” that the administration promised. But look at it this way. The family that gets state paychecks together stays together.

    Nicole McCleskey’s statement: “Longer-term, Republicans must seize an opportunity to connect with Hispanic voters” maybe true–but it also maybe true that Hispanics are getting just as tired of the new administration taking care of their own special interests instead of the interests of the state, as us other citizens.

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