Public Policy Polling sees Hispanic shift in Texas
Wed June 23, 2010 8:24 am

From the PPP Web site:

Our poll of the Texas Governor's race this week is another data point indicating possible backlash for Republican candidates this fall in the wake of the Arizona immigration law.

When we polled the race in February Rick Perry led Bill White by 6 points. The race is tied now, and the movement since the previous poll has come completely with Hispanic voters. With white voters Perry led 54-35 then and leads 55-35 now. With black voters White led 81-12 then and leads 70-7 now. But with Hispanics Perry has gone from leading 53-41 in February to now trailing 55-21. And it's not that the sample of Hispanic voters we interviewed for this poll was somehow fundamentally different from the previous one- Barack Obama's approval with them on this poll was 49% compared to 47% on the previous Texas poll.

Hispanics moving toward Democratic candidates since the Arizona immigration bill was signed is becoming a trend in our polling of western states. Previous races where we polled before and after the signing of the immigration bill showed Rodney Glassman going from a 17 point deficit against John McCain with Hispanics to a 17 point lead, Michael Bennet going from a 12 point lead to a 21 point lead against Jane Norton with them, and Terry Goddard going from a 20 point lead to a 46 point lead with them.

There's no doubt the immigration bill is popular nationally. But if it causes Hispanics to change their voting behavior without a parallel shift among whites then it's going to end up playing to Democratic advantage this fall. It's much more important to look at how Hispanic voters in states with large Hispanic populations are reacting than it is to look at the national numbers, at least as it pertains to this fall's election.

I'm not going to say that the day of reckoning is at hand, but I will say that the Republican party cannot continue to follow the Leo Bermans and the Debbie Riddles over the cliff on immigration issues without eventually paying a very large price. The bill may not come due this year, or in 2012, or even in 2020, but it WILL come due if the state Republican party does not change. Everybody who is reading these words knows the demographic future of the state. Demographics is destiny. Those who ignore them do so at their peril.

This is not Rick Perry's fault. He understands the issue and its potential to undermine the Republican party and his own election. He understands, too, that if the bill passes here, it will lead to an increase in crime as DPS and local law enforcement have to spend their time chasing immigrants instead of crooks. But he is in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time since HPV when the base has not been with him on an issue -- or, to be more precise, when he has not been with the base on an issue. He was able to patch up that one. He can't patch up this one.

Throughout Perry's career, luck and timing have always been on his side. This is the first exception I can think of. The Arizona immigration bill was like a flash fire in the political thicket, and it isn't close to burning out. It's going to sweep through the country, including Texas. It's going to be an issue in the election. It's going to come up here in the next legislative session. If it gets to the floor, Republicans are going to have to vote for it. Does Perry veto it? Does he let it become law without his signature? Does he get Greg Abbott to declare it unconstitutional? Or does it even matter what he does: Is the wound infected; is the malady fatal; has the damage already been done?

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