On Tuesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to debate comprehensive immigration reform. The amendment-o-rama begins! The actual 84-15 vote isn't indicative of much, as Jed explained
But we did learn a few things today.
For example, Mark Kirk voted against debating the issue. Given that his 2016 reelection chances hinge on his ability to portray himself as a moderate, siding with the Inhoffes and Cruz's of the Senate won't exactly earn him points. Not only is he on the wrong policy side of the issue (Illinois was 15.8 percent Latino and 4.6 percent Asian in 2010, 14 percent are foreign-born), but the optics of his opposition are terrible. More than those demographic numbers, Illinois is quite simply a solidly Blue state. His only chance of reelection is to create distance between him and his party. This ain't doing that.
But aside from Kirk (and Iowa's Chuck Grassley), the other 13 obstructionist votes all came from solidly Red states. Among them? Texas freshman Ted Cruz.
This is interesting because Texas, by its lonesome self, should be the only excuse Republicans need to support genuine immigration reform.
Want some crazy math? How about this?
Mitt Romney carried Texas by a margin of 15.8 percent over President Obama in 2012. If Latino citizens had voted at the same rate as non-Hispanic whites, Romney’s victory margin would shrink to 5.4 points.
If current demographic trends continue, Democrats would whittle about 5 ½ percentage points off the 15.8-point margin of victory won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 in every subsequent presidential cycle. That would transform Texas - the center of Republican resistance to Obama's agenda - into a competitive state at the presidential level by 2020 and a toss-up state four years later.
Let's be clear about this: If Latinos voted at the same rates as whites, Texas would already be Purple. And all other things remaining equal, it would've provided Mitt Romney with his second closest victory margin last year. Except that all things wouldn't have been equal—a five-point race would've meant lots of money. Democrats would've poured resources into the state, while Republicans would've been forced to divert their cash to playing defense.
How important is Texas? If Republicans lost it, they could win Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin and still lose the election. In other words, lose Texas, or even be forced to defend that expensive-ass state, and Republicans are screwed.
So the math is clear—Texas would be purple of Latinos voted. But they don't, so who cares, right? Well, Republicans should, because even with the same existing shitty turnout rate the growth in the Latino and Asian communities will erode the GOP's base by about 5 1/2 points every four years, or about 1.4 points per year.
In other words, demographics alone will make Texas purple by 2024. And if Latinos decide to start voting, years sooner.
One last bit of math:
Down-ticket races in Texas would have seen a similar shift to Democratic candidates — starting with a narrower margin of victory for now-Sen. Ted Cruz, whose 16 point win over Democrat Paul Sadler would have been closer to 5.5 points.
Republicans like Cruz have a choice—get this issue off the table so they can find other ways to compete for the Latino vote, or march straight into electoral oblivion.