By Chris Wilson
Last January, at a conference of Hispanic conservatives in Florida, the former laid out the salient challenge facing his party in the clearest possible terms.
"In 2020," Gillespie said, "if the Republican nominee for president gets the same percentage of the white, African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American vote that John McCain got in 2008, a Democrat will be elected to the White House by 14 percentage points."
Concerns over the Republican Party's appeal to have been front and center since lost the presidential election, but the math is not new. Gillespie's calculations, which were mentioned in a Time magazine cover story in March on the Latino vote, are a simple matter of looking at population trends and extrapolating. The Census Bureau provides detailed estimates of population growth by race and ethnicity through 2050. TheHispanic population is expected to triple between 2008 and 2050, while the total number of white, non-Hispanic Americans will remain stagnant.
I wasn't able to reach Gillespie or precisely recreate his math, but the concept is valid. The following interactive lets you play with the figures by adjusting the predicted turnout and party preference among the four major racial and ethnic groups in America for the next nine election cycles.
A record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. This is up by more than 4 million, or 22%, since 2008, when 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote.
Mitt Romney lost Latinos by unprecedented margins -- even worse than the initial exit polls showed -- according to a study by Latino Decisions.
An election eve poll of 5,600 voters across all 50 states by the group, which has researched the Latino vote throughout the campaign, concluded Obama won by an eye-popping 75-23 margin. Their research concluded that CNN's exit poll estimate of 71 percent of Latinos breaking to Obama likely undercounted their support, although they agreed with the assessment that turnout equaled 10 percent of the electorate.
"For the first time in US history, the Latino vote can plausibly claim to be nationally decisive," Stanford University university professor Gary Segura, who conducted the study, told reporters.
According to Segura, the Latino vote provided Obama with 5.4 percent of his margin over Romney, well more than his overall lead in the popular vote. Had Romney managed even 35 percent of the Latino vote, he said, the results may have flipped nationally.
The effect was at least as dramatic in swing states, most notably in Colorado, which Obama won on Tuesday. There Latinos went for the president by an astounding 87-10 margin, an edge not far from the near-monolithic support he received from African American voters. In Ohio, with a smaller but still significant Latino population, Obama won by an 82-17 margin.
"This poll makes clear what we've known for a long time: the Latino Giant is wide awake, cranky, and its taking names," Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU, told reporters Wednesday on a conference call discussing the results.
Beyond the eye-popping margin of victory, the internal numbers helped explain why many of the Republican's efforts to deal with the problem fizzled in 2012. Romney tacked hard right on illegal immigration, recommending a policy of "self-deportation," but he hoped that by stressing his dedication to legal immigration he might mitigate the damage.
The reason that didn't work, according to the study, is that Latino citizens are too personally connected to undocumented residents to separate the issue. Some 60 percent of high propensity Latino voters say they know someone who is living in the country illegally.
"You're not talking about an abstract immigrant, you're talking about someone the respondent knows and cares for and may in fact be related to," Segura said.
For the GOP, his conclusion was simple: "The Republicans need to make this go away."
The starting point would be comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, a move he says could at least chip away at Democrats' increasing strength with the community. But selling that to the conservative base is going to be a tough slog and could invite a damaging backlash all its own, leaving the future fraught with danger for the right.