So Republicans don't need to win the Latino vote, they just need to dig into that massive 44-point Democratic advantage. But as I've noted before, it's hard to play nice with Latinos when signing on to comprehensive immigration reform would mean 13 million new Latino voters, or a net eight million new Democratic voters. Remember, Obama won the 2012 elections by five million.
So there is little incentive for the GOP at large to indulge in any reform effort. While standing in the way of reform would cost Republicans more of what little Latino support they retain, the alternative isn't that much more palatable.
But while the party at large isn't much interested in reform, there are individual Republicans who won't survive future elections without winning a greater share of the Latino vote. Let's go below the fold to see who these potential targets might be.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who was narrowly elected last year, has gone from talking about "amnesty" and opposing the DREAM Act, to suddenly sounding conciliatory on this Senate proposal. He lost Latinos by 40 percent. In six years, a repeat performance would spell certain doom.
Indeed, two of the four Republicans hammering out the bipartisan "framework" are from Arizona (John McCain and Jeff Flake), while Florida's Marco Rubio is both looking at his own state's demographics, and at a potential national run. Both of those would require significant Latino support. (South Carolina's Lindsey Graham is more worried about the national party's prospects than his own. He's an anomaly.)
Utah's Orrin Hatch has been okay on the issue in the past, and the Mormon church is at least good on this issue. Utah, in fact, is quite tolerant of immigrants. Ted Cruz in Texas is an unreconstructed teabagger and has been strategizing with hardliners on the issue, but John Cornyn has been more outwardly flexible.
Georgia is 8.8 percent Latino, North Carolina is 8.4 percent—both will be competitive enough that the Latino vote can make a difference, hence putting pressure on their Republicans (Johnny Isaakson and the retiring Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, and Richard Burr in North Carolina) to vote the right way. Mark Kirk in Illinois will face an uphill fight no matter what, so he better not further alienate his state's 16 percent Latinos (and Asians, too).
And while Latinos aren't a huge percentage of the populations of Ohio (3.1 percent) and Pennsylvania (5.7 percent), the competitive nature of both states should give both Rob Portman and Pat Toomey reason to think twice about lining up on the wrong side of this issue.
That makes 10 Republicans who would have a selfish reason to buck their party in support of reform, plus Graham. There may be a handful of other yes votes from the GOP, perhaps Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, maybe Susan Collins. Who knows. I wouldn't count on it. But there is certainly room to get to 60 even with expected Democratic defections.
The same concept would hold in the House—find those Republicans who represent districts with heavy Latino (and/or Asian) presence and pressure them to vote for reform. In years past, this notion might be a pipe-dream with little chance of success. Maybe it's a pipe dream this year! But given the clusterfuck of a caucus that Speaker John Boehner has in his hands, there may be a chance yet, particularly if Democrats promise to throw extra drones at the border. Republicans really like drones at the border.