That helps explain the struggles over immigration reform. Many House Republicans resist going along with a sweeping plan that provides a path to citizenship for people who broke the law to get here and face little pressure from voters at home. Thanks to gerrymandering, there are few competitive House districts.
More than 80 percent of Republicans have constituencies that are 20 percent or less Hispanic. So if appealing to Hispanics is good for the long-term of the GOP, it isn’t an obvious short-term play. Why would a Republican in a mostly white district take the political risk of embracing a path to citizenship for immigrants?
“We will never elect another president if we don’t figure out a way to attract more nonwhite voters,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres.
Immigration still faces a struggle in the House, but there are flickers of movement on the bill. The harsh rhetoric that has surrounded the issue before, turning off Hispanic voters, has died considerably. When Rep. Steve King of Iowa last month said young immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they carry bundles of drugs across the border, he was roundly rebuked by House Speaker John Boehner and others.
While many Republicans still oppose gay marriage, the issue is fading as a concern on Capitol Hill, too, and that could help draw in young voters who overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage.
“Sometimes it takes a while,” said Ayres. “But we learn. That’s progress. I am convinced the Republicans are but one election and one candidate away from resurrection.”
Contact Alex Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org.