INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
By Steve Flowers
The 2016 Presidential election has not only begun, it is well under way. It is now a lengthy process that spans the entire four-year presidential term. The race essentially begins the day a president is sworn into office. Aspirants begin jockeying for the brass ring of American politics the next day and the marathon begins. It becomes exponentially more intriguing when there is no incumbent in the fray as will be the case in 2016.
We have an Electoral College system that makes for a chess game of political maneuvering to capture the White House. On one hand, this appears complicated because the winner of the popular vote in all 50 states is not necessarily the winner. However, it has become much simpler in the past few decades. As a result of our Electoral College election system, only about 12 states really matter. Therefore, the election process boils down to campaigning in only about a dozen battleground states. The remaining 38 states are irrelevant because they are so predictably inclined to vote for one party regardless of who the candidates are for the presidency.
Alabama is one of those reliably safe states. We will vote for the Republican candidate no matter who the nominees are for either party, so we will be ignored in the general election. Donald Duck could be the Republican nominee and we would vote for Donald Duck, along with about 15 other southern and western conservative states. However, do not feel bad. New York and California will be ignored too because these liberal states are going to vote for the Democratic candidate, regardless.
Prior to the GOP convention, we will see a host of Republican presidential candidates vying for the GOP nomination, but not afterwards. Therefore, like most elections, strategist will look to the numbers. It is simple arithmetic which battleground or swing state a candidate can carry and how. More specifically, the experts say it is now even simpler than that – their primary focus is how to get Hispanic voters in those pivotal swing states to vote for their candidate?
Most pundits and prognosticators are saying that the GOP has a slippery slope to climb when it comes to presidential politics because of the growing importance of Hispanic votes in America. Most Republicans are from conservative states and the GOP has taken a hardline approach to immigration. Alabama is a prime example. This hardline approach has not boded well with Hispanic voters.
In the past two presidential elections, hardline rhetoric against immigration reform decreased the Republican nominee’s share of Hispanic voters from 40 percent for George W. Bush in 2004 to 27 percent for Mitt Romney last time.
Within a few days of Romney’s 2012 defeat, GOP leaders agreed there had to be a plan to get more Hispanic voters into the fold. A few months later a Republican national committee panel issued a report concluding, “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
The President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donahue, recently said, “If the Republicans don’t do something positive towards immigration reform, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.”
Sen John McCain (R-Arizona) and the 2008 presidential nominee was even more blunt. He said that without action, “it doesn’t matter who we nominate.”
Even with this call for alarm, the Republicans in Congress have become even more strident and vocal in their approach to immigration. Those of us from the South find it difficult to understand and see the demographic changes in the United States, which has changed our political landscape. However, it is real.
In the 2016 presidential election, the Hispanic vote will likely total 16.5 percent of the American vote. Polling consistently indicates that if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee she garners 75 percent of the Hispanic vote against any GOP candidate.
You add to the mix that you are going to have a hotly contested GOP presidential contest with probably 12 viable well-financed candidates running negative ads against each other. They will more than likely not all kiss and makeup. This makes for a difficult mountain to climb for a Republican to sit in the White House after 2016.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.