Republican consultant Karl Rove thinks Georgia Republicans need to be more like their Texas counterparts.
In a May 18 speech at Georgia’s GOP state convention, Rove said Republicans have “got to get outside of our comfort zone and go places Republicans are not comfortable going,” according to a transcript provided to us by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we’ve got to get candidates who represent the diversity of our country,” Rove said.
“Look, in Texas we get 40 percent of the Latino vote on average,” Rove said. “And that’s because every Republican is comfortable campaigning everywhere in Texas and because we go out of our way to recruit qualified Latino candidates and run them for office.”
Nationally in 2012, Barack Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney while enjoying substantial Latino support. Some 71 percent of Hispanic voters favored Obama, compared with 27 percent for Romney, according to voter exit polls undertaken for a consortium of news organizations.
We wondered about Rove’s 40-percent-in-Texas claim.
Rove, best known for guiding George W. Bush to two wins for governor of Texas and two more for president, declined to elaborate.
But we noticed Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier airing a similar claim, telling Politico last November that about 40 percent of his state’s Hispanic voters had supported Bush for president and “me when I ran” for re-election as governor “in 2010.”
Also, Mike Baselice, an Austin pollster who has counseled Rove, Perry and numerous Republican candidates, said in an October 2012 memo based on his firm’s Oct. 10-14 survey of 851 likely Texas voters that at that time, Obama had the support of 49 percent of the state’s Hispanic voters, with Romney at 40 percent. According to Baselice’s memo, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz was supported by 36 percent of Hispanic voters, while Democrat Paul Sadler had 40 percent.
The Politico story also mentioned a Texas poll taken on the eve of the November 2012 elections indicating Cruz had 35 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote, outpacing Romney, shown at 29 percent. The poll by Latino Decisions, a Seattle-based firm that specializes in Latino political opinion research, was based on 400 telephone interviews with Texas Latinos who had voted or were certain to vote. Its margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points suggests that Cruz, but not Romney, was on the verge of drawing 40 percent of the Texas Latino vote.
James Henson, director of the Politics Project in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, struck a cautionary note as we explored Rove’s claim. Any look at how Latino voters divide relies on extrapolation, Henson said, “since there is no direct measure for Latino voting.”
Besides, polls can be flawed, Democratic consultant James Aldrete of Austin said, sometimes undersampling Hispanic voters or failing to query voters who wish to be interviewed in Spanish.
Sylvia Manzano of Houston, an analyst for Latino Decisions, said that most polls of Texas Latinos fall short of achieving representative samples by concentrating on pockets of the state.
Manzano said she would take Rove’s 40 percent claim with a grain of salt, though she also said, “Latinos in Texas have not been averse to voting for Republicans” partly because the state’s Republican Party has not been hostile.
Kind of like stacking grains of salt, we focused on Texas Latino voters by reviewing more than a dozen poll results, covering seven elections from 2000 through 2012, as posted publicly or described to us by pollsters or partisans.
Upshot: The best a Republican fared with Texas Hispanics in the elections was Kay Bailey Hutchison when she drew half the Hispanic vote in 2000, by one analysis. The same year, Bush got 49 percent in his first run for president, according to that year’s exit polls taken for news organizations, or 33 percent, according to a poll by the William C. Velásquez Institute. Bush also drew 49 percent in 2004, according to the national exit poll.
The worst any Republican fared among Texas Hispanics was Romney’s election eve 29 percent, according to the Latino Decisions poll.
Considering every result except the one for Perry in 2006 (when he faced multiple challengers) delivers an average of 39 percent of the Hispanic vote for Republicans at or near the top of the tickets. We also averaged the poll showings for each election year, reaching an across-the-years average of 40 percent. Trying another tack, we counted only the polled results for nonpresidential candidates, also landing at 40 percent.
Our ruling: Rove’s claim holds up if you consider the limited array of public polls going back to 2000, though polls taken in connection with the latest elections suggest not every Republican draws 40 percent. We rate the statement Mostly True.
Statement: ‘In Texas we get 40 percent of the Latino vote on average.’