Could Latinos doom the GOP in California?

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    Challenge for the GOP in California.

    California’s growing Latino population presents challenge for the GOP in California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli/Evan Vucci)

    Just a year away from the mid-term elections, California’s growing Latino population is presenting a bigger challenge for Republicans – and could doom any prospect of a political comeback any time soon in the Golden State.

    California’s GOP thought it could turn around its prospects given the lessons of the 2012 presidential election and calls from party leaders to soften positions, on immigration reform especially.

    The GOP in California

    But Republicans now face potential doom in four California Congressional districts held by the GOP where the 2012 election results were so close that the incumbents’ margin of victory left them in political jeopardy.

    In those districts, new state voter registration statistics show that the projected number of new eligible Latino voters turning 18 by 2014 – along with new Asian voters –exceed those margins of difference and could swing the balance of power to the Democratic challengers there.

    In California Latino and Asian populations in Republican districts are triple the national average, and both groups voted 70 percent Democratic in the last election.

    The problem for the GOP statewide is further underscored in a new Los Angeles Times poll showing only 15 percent of voters say they are registered Republicans.

    More significantly, Republicans have largely failed to heed the lessons of 2012 by continuing to weigh in on two key issues that help to define candidates for minority voters: immigration reform and Obamacare.

    Staying on that road, caution even GOP insiders like Allan Hoffenblum, the the former political coordinator of the California Republican Party and now publisher of the California Target Book, could lead to a bigger political debacle for their party.

    “When most people talk about the national Republican Party,” says Hoffenblum, “they say it might end up like the California Republican Party.”

    Even Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has seen it fit to put in his two cents worth, though carefully measured, in assessing the troubles the California GOP finds itself in by continuing to strongly oppose comprehensive immigration reform.

    “The California Republican Party needs to take a look at their policies, the words that they use,” Perry said this fall. “I would suggest that that matters.”

    California Republicans, though, aren’t changing course except for a couple of House members who realize they are in political danger.

    Congressman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is one of the few Republicans in California who has altered his thinking – and for good reason. His district is more than 40 percent Latino.

    Denham won re-election in 2012 by some 11,000 votes, and he has seen the writing on the wall. An estimated 26,000 Latinos and Asians in his district will turn 18 in the next year before Election Day.

    “Latinos in California and across the nation are a huge demographic,” he says. “As members look at the issue, they need to understand the changing demographics in the future.”

    Although Denham had previously opposed California’s version of the DREAM Act and supported Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law, he is now backing a bill introduced by House Democrats that includes a path to citizenship.

    Another California GOP Congressman who has changed his stance on immigration reform is David Valadao of Bakersfield who is now supporting the Democrats immigration bill.

    “On a national scale,” says Valadao, “for someone that wants to be president or be more of a national figure, I think they need to be smart on immigration and they have to pay attention and be part of the solution.”

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