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Analysis - Republicans on political "precipice" with Hispanic vote

Analysis - Republicans on political "precipice" with Hispanic vote
25 Feb 2016 – 04:15 PM EST
Millennials will make up nearly half of the Latinos eligible to vote in 2016, and they are not widely throwing their support behind Clinton. Crédito: Getty Images

By David Adams @dadams7308

The Republican Party is falling further behind in the contest for Hispanic voters, endangering its electoral chances in November, according to a new poll published Thursday by Univision and The Washington Post.

And if the party was the nominate current front-runner Donald Trump as its presidential candidate, support among Hispanics would fall to a historic low.

"The Republican Party has a problem with the Latino electorate, and that problem is called Donald Trump," said Fernand Amandi, with Bendixen & Amandi International, a Miami-based polling firm that helped conduct the survey.

The conventional wisdom among political strategists is that the Republican candidate needs to attract at least 40% of the Hispanic vote to have a decent chance at winning the general election. But the new poll found that only 16% of Hispanics would vote for the New York billionaire.

“The Republican Party is on the precipice of nominating Trump and if these poll numbers hold it means the party is committing suicide,” said Amandi.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment by Univision about the poll results.

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In the poll, the only Republican candidate who came close to being competitive with Hispanic voters is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who obtained 33% of Hispanics in a race against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and 31% against Hillary Clinton. Texas Senator Ted Cruz would win 28% of the Hispanic vote in a matchup against Sanders and 27% against Clinton.

Slightly more than half of Hispanic voters – 51% - said they will “definitely” vote for the Democratic Party candidate in November’s presidential election, with only 14% saying they were committed to voting Republican, according to a poll.

However, more than one third of Hispanic voters - 35% - remain undecided which party to vote for, leaving the door open to rebuild bridges, the poll found.

A now famous autopsy by the Republican party after the 2012 election recognized that the party had demographic problem with minorities as the country grew more diverse. The last Republican to obtain 40% of the Hispanic vote was George W Bush in 2004, but analysts note the Hispanic share of the vote was only 8% at that time, and has grown to about 13%.

“You have a continuous growth trajectory demographically, and continuous growth politically because of the antipathy to Republicans,” said public opinion pollster John Zogby.

Some Republican leaders, led by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, have expressed concern over the party’s outreach to Hispanics. Bush, who speaks Spanish and is married to a Mexican, dropped out of the race on Saturday after a poor showing in South Carolina and has publicly lamented the tone of other candidates, especially Trump, over Hispanic immigration.

The seemingly unstoppable rise of Trump has taken the Republican Party by surprise, blowing away any efforts to woo Hispanics, said Steve Schale, a political strategist in Florida and state director for the Obama campaign in 2008.

“My suspicion is that they (Republican Party leaders) are worried, but the trouble is they have this Frankenstein – Donald Trump - they don’t know what to do with,” he added.

With only 16% of the Hispanic vote Trump was underperforming the 2012 defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney by double digits in the latest poll. Romney won 27-29% of the Hispanic vote on that occasion.

The poll also showed that Trump’s already high unfavorability rating among Hispanics had shot up 10 points since June, to a catastrophic 81%.

“The only time I have seen a rating that high before was when we measured Fidel Castro,” said Amandi.

If she is nominated as the Democratic party candidate Clinton would beat any of the top three Republicans left in the race, the poll of Hispanic voters found. If nominated, Sanders would also beat the three Republicans, but by slightly lesser margins.

Hispanic voters preferred Clinton over Rubio, who is Cuban American, by a margin of 61% - 31%. She also crushed Trump 73% to 16%. Sanders was leading Rubio by 57% to 33% and Trump by 72% to 16%.

The only hope for Republicans are the 35% undecided voters, said Amandi. “That is an ominous sign for Democrats,” said Amandi. “The undecided tend to be concentrated among younger voters. That bond of loyalty may be hard to maintain.”