Back in the spring, Marco Rubio’s pollster Whit Ayres laid out a potential harsh truth: for a Republican presidential nominee to win in 2016, they would need to capture 40% of the Latino vote. That is, of course, unless a candidate would get Reagan-like numbers among white voters. Although this seems somewhat shocking, it does emphasize something the Republican establishment has known for a while.
In the aftermath of the 2012 election, where Romney gained just 23% of the Latino vote, the Republicans carried out an “autopsy” report, where they realized the need to make significant inroads among Latinos if they had any hope of being competitive in future elections. The GOP’s standing with Latino voters has fallen since Bush carried 44% of the Latino vote in 2004, and in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants, this downward trend seems doomed to continue for the Republican Party.
The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) recently released an extensive report that laid out just how steep a climb any eventual Republican nominee will be facing in November. Of course, this report is left-leaning, so there are a bit of biases to work through. But it notes that even by modest standards, Democrats have a significant advantage when heading into the 2016 election, mostly due to the growth of voters that backed Obama in 2008 and 2012: millennials, Latinos and single women. Although white voters remain mostly Republican, particularly among those who are married and working-class, the report states that Democrats have gained influenced with single white women and college-educated white voters.
Although the share of white voters is expected to shrink two percentage points lower than its 2012 level, the share of young and minority voters will most likely be two points higher than in 2012, and CAP has suggested that this number could be even higher in key swing states. If the eventual Democratic nominee can maintain 2012 levels of support among white college graduates, white working-class voters and minority voters, then the report concludes that the Democratic candidate will overwhelmingly win the popular vote and almost definitely win the election.
CAP has estimated that even if minority groups’ support for the Democratic nominee fell to 78%, and if opposition among white working-class voters stood at the levels of the 2014 midterm, then Democrats still could win if the party maintain its 2012 support from white college graduates. Yet if Democrats still just capture 78% of the minority vote while support among white college-graduate Democratic voters deflates to levels of the 2014 midterm elections, then the Republican nominee could win the presidency. However, it isn’t clear if such a breakdown could help them win key swing states, and turnout among Democratic voters is consistently better during presidential elections and drops sharply during midterms.
Despite such estimates, commentators and strategists have argued that expanding gains among white voters could propel the GOP to win the 2016 election. Furthermore, Democratic voters seem to be less excited about the 2016 election than Republican voters. Not only that, but Democratic voters seem torn between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions, much in the same way that the GOP’s voters are torn between the Trump faction and every other candidate. Yet among Democrats, those who would vote for Bernie Sanders seem unlikely to back Clinton, even if she does gain the nomination, while among Republicans, even those who wouldn’t immediately support Trump would nonetheless back him if he were to gain the nomination.