The focus on the Hispanic vote opens the door for a new generation of Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, to put their stamp on the party. But it also augurs debate that will play out as early as next week over whether the GOP needs to develop a more open-arms strategy at the risk of offending a core of rural, religious whites, who in many states control the party’s primary system.
“Republicans need to modify their stance on immigration, but their deeper need is more profound: a way to sell limited-government conservatism that has a broader appeal than sublimated white Christian identity politics,” writes Jonathan Chait, in New York Magazine this week.
The stakes, meanwhile, are as huge as the ideological divide over immigration is deep. “A GOP civil war could well end in the creation of a third party,” suggests Brigitte Nacos, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York.
The new reality for many Republicans became painfully evident on Election Day: That it may no longer be feasible to in essence lock out a portion of the population whose conservative views on religion and work are a natural fit with the GOP, and who have shown willingness to vote for Republicans in the past. George W. Bush, who hailed from Texas and courted Hispanics, received 44 percent of their vote in 2004 while Mitt Romney drew only 27 percent.