Thursday, December 2, 2010

Over the Rainbow on Immigration? If the DREAM Act Passes it is...

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The GOP's Latino base: Real or imagined?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I don't know Lamar Smith, but I feel like I do. The Texas Republican, who is likely to chair the House Judiciary Committee in the next Congress, writes often to disagree with my columns.

I respect Smith for his consistency, especially on immigration. If all congressmen voted their conscience, I suspect that two-thirds of current House members would legalize most unauthorized immigrants in the country. Not Smith.
He seems convinced that we should deport even the youths who came illegally with their parents but later prove their worth to the nation by going to college or joining the military. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appear intent on forcing a vote this month on the Dream Act that would give these youths a path to citizenship.
But if Smith isn't cynical, he does engage in political wishful thinking. In a column in last Saturday's Post ["The GOP's other Election Day victory"], he wrote that hard-line immigration views are winning over so many Hispanics that it paints "a very bright picture" for the Republican Party. If Smith believes this, he is whistling in the dark, and the tune isn't "The Eyes of Texas." It is "Over the Rainbow."

Smith cites the national exit polling following last month's midterm election that - despite the Arizona law and immigrant-bashing by many Republicans - gave the GOP 38 percent of the Latino vote. This is indeed a big improvement on the 31 percent the exit poll gave John McCain against Obama in 2008.

But Smith is making two politically fatal mistakes. One is that the midterm result is far below the 44 percent of the Hispanic vote that George W. Bush got in 2004, and within the range of mid-30s that Republicans regularly receive. Significantly, it is nowhere near the 45 percent that party strategists know they need to compensate in the future for the declining Anglo share of the vote.

The second concerns the exit poll itself. It tends to overcount the Latino and African American vote as Republican. Only the poll's trends are valuable, as the same poor measures are used each election. Even Bush's 44 percent, reported widely as fact for six years, is to complete article

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