Politics

The GOP’s Demographic Demise Was On Full Display At The Miami Debate

CREDIT: Alice Ollstein

A large and diverse crowd protested outside of the Republican debate in Miami.

MIAMI, FLORIDA — The Republican Party has a demographics problem. A recent analysis found that while GOP frontrunner Donald Trump may be energizing a subset of white male voters who normally don’t participate in politics, he is driving away the very groups Republicans need to win the White House this fall: young people, women, naturalized immigrants, Latinos, and blue collar workers. Trump has done so much damage to the GOP’s brand with these groups that he would need to win more than 70 percent of all white men to make up for it, yet he is polling at just 57 percent when matched up with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and 55 percent when squared off against Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Republican Party leaders are openly wondering if Trump will “drive the party into a demographic abyss,” and if the hundreds of Florida voters who gathered outside last night’s GOP are any indication, the GOP has cause for concern.

On Thursday night, as the four remaining candidates debated, hundreds of people from across Florida took to the streets outside the University of Miami to protest the party’s rhetoric on immigration, women’s health, the Puerto Rican debt crisis, and the minimum wage.

Women

As she waded through the sea of protesters, environmental engineering student Athena Jones held aloft a toilet seat on which she’d attached a picture of Trump’s face and scrawled the words: “Sexist piece of…”

“I’m shocked that educated people could possibly vote for this piece of crap,” Jones told ThinkProgress. “I mean, him saying Hillary got ‘shlonged,’ and all the anti-abortion stuff. Even after Trump says Planned Parenthood does great things, he still says he wouldn’t fund them because of abortion. Screw that! Bernie [Sanders] has a great line where he says the only part of government Republicans want to expand is the part that controls women’s bodies.”

In 2016, single women like Jones will be one of the most influential voting blocs, making up nearly a quarter of the electorate.

Trump, whose campaign manager recently manhandled a female reporter, who mocked Carly Fiorina’s face, and who suggested another female reporter’s tough questions were a result of menstrual rage, is seriously struggling with single women voters.

New Americans

Tomas Kennedy and his family came to the U.S. undocumented during Argentina’s economic meltdown in the year 2000. He has since become a citizen, through marriage, and will be voting for the first time in his life next year. Kennedy told ThinkProgress that the rhetoric on immigration he has heard from Donald Trump and the other Republican candidates have possibly turned him away from the party for life.

“They talk about building walls, about kicking 11 million immigrants out, about banning our Muslim brothers and sisters,” he told ThinkProgress. “So I think it’s more important than ever to show them that the American people are going to reject that language and that political pandering. There are thousands and thousands of immigrant youth like me, and we’re never ever going to forget the way we were treated, and we’re going to vote against these people.”

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CREDIT: Alice Ollstein

Though Kennedy noted Trump has said the most offensive things about Latino immigrants during the campaign, he expressed even more disappointment in Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are both themselves children of immigrants.

“Rubio tried to pass immigration reform, but when the Tea Party turned against it, he chickened out and went against his own bill,” Kennedy said. “Now he talks about taking DACA away. Cruz and Rubio’s parents came as immigrants and refugees, but now they’re traitors to our community. They’re just following the Trump effect. They’re moving the debate so far to the right and I think they’re going to suffer the consequences.”

Puerto Ricans

Near the front of the marchers, a group of older Puerto Ricans marched solemnly with a massive banner reminding the candidates that there are more than 1 million Puerto Rican voters in Florida, with more arriving every month.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled to Florida over the past couple years as the island’s debt crisis worsens and as the government implements austerity measures like shutting down schools and raising the cost of water and electricity. Puerto Ricans are poised to surpass Cubans as the largest Latino voting bloc in Florida, and they lean much further left than their Caribbean neighbors, spelling trouble for candidates like Marco Rubio who have opposed measures to aid the island.

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Besides Rubio, none of the remaining Republican candidates have addressed the Puerto Rican debt crisis, even as they campaign in the state so many Puerto Ricans now call home.

“They’ve forgotten about us. They ignore us. They’ve turned their back on us,” Madeline Ortiz told ThinkProgress in Spanish. “But now, we Puerto Ricans are starting to vote and more. We’re going to show them. If they don’t talk about this issue, we Puerto Ricans will not support them.”

Ortiz, who moved to Kissimmee, Florida from Puerto Rico 20 years ago, says she has been helping register hundreds of Puerto Rican voters in her community and has worked to educate them about the Republican Party’s silence on the debt issue.

“We have to vote so they pay attention to us,” she said.

Low-wage workers

The candidates on Thursday night’s debate stage made no mention of wages, but have previously stated their opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, and some want to get rid of the minimum wage altogether. In opposing raises, they have lost the votes of people like Felicia Anderson, has been working in childcare for 36 years in Broward County, Florida.

“It makes me sad to listen to them,” she told ThinkProgress. “We are people We work hard. We should be able to make a living for ourselves. I’m so sad that they don’t see that.”

Anderson joined dozens of other local workers on Thursday to protest under the banner of the national Fight for 15 movement, which has aimed over the past few months to pressure presidential candidates to guarantee all U.S. workers a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to join a union.

Patricia Walker, a home health care worker from Tampa, Florida, told ThinkProgress she will only vote for a candidate who agrees with these demands. So far, the only candidate in either party to endorse the $15 minimum wage is Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“I love what I do, and I think I should get paid what I’m worth,” said Walker, who will vote for the first time this year. “I can’t live off of the $10 an hour I make now. I have to share an apartment because I pay rent by myself. I struggle day to day to buy enough food and clothes. It’s not right.”

The numbers don’t add up

After losing the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party underwent some soul searching, and produced an “autopsy report” urging future candidates to reach out to non-white voters, women, and young people. The GOP then proceeded to follow none of these recommendations, and now Republican strategists warn that the party is dooming itself not only in 2016 election, but for a generation or more to come.

This November, Latinos will make up a higher percentage of the electorate than ever before, especially in key swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. There will be more than 27 million eligible Latino voters this fall, and more than half of them are millenials. Polls this year have repeatedly shown these voters have unfavorable views of Donald Trump as Trump continues to advance towards the Republican nomination.

The Pew Research Center found that about two-thirds of Latino voters say that it’s extremely important or very important to have changes in federal immigration policies to pass new immigration legislation soon. The same poll found that about one-third of Latino voters say that they would not vote for a candidate if they disagreed with the candidate on immigration policy.

Republican presidential candidates may need anywhere between 42 and 47 percent of the Latino vote, especially in key battleground states like Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado, the polling group Latino Decisions found. The party won less than 30 percent in 2012.

The GOP is also showing signs of losing the youth vote. After conducting surveys of more than 1,000 18 to 26-year-olds, top Republican pollster Frank Luntz reported “a chasm of disconnection that renders every prominent national Republican irrelevant with the voting bloc that could control campaigns for the next 30 years.”