The Republican Party’s pick of Cleveland for its next nomination convention in 2016 made its splash as the least likely selection, yet there was no surprise there. If you took a Cleveland bet to Vegas or had some fun with a political office pool, you’d win a few dollars because in many ways it was the obvious pick. Dallas (deep in the heart of Texas) might have been the friendlier, safer route – but, it was also as White as you could bake it, right? Dallas itself might be highly diverse, about a quarter Black and over 40 percent Latino, but you can’t shake the Texas off it. This is the state that not only racked up more than 125,000 signatures to secede from the Union, but it has become one of several thriving hubs of Tea Partyism with its junior Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among the list of whiny political Lone Starters, along with last term Governor and epic presidential fail Rick Perry (R-TX), who just won’t disappear. Mix that with expected all-White crowds wearing obligatory cowboy hats and silver-tipped boots and the GOP finds itself cementing the narrative that it won’t reach the White House due to demographics.
Of course, it still seems impossible – given population trends and hard-headed extremists – that a Republican will find his (no her seen) path to Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016. But, they hope Cleveland gets them a few inches closer. Ohio is less Texas, very much less southern and oozing much less with the scent of secessionism. And, it’s as Black as you can get, perhaps fitting – while clumsily – into the Republican National Committee’s longshot bid on Black outreach its pursued these days. Not that it will garner any Black votes, but it fits a new play, a new and rather clever messaging strategy that can yield some strange dividends if they persist with it.
It’s not about getting Black votes – it’s about getting just enough to eat into the edges of a margin. In 2004, President Bush managed to miraculously snatch up a record 16 percent of Ohio’s Black vote – 5 points more than his 11 percent share nationwide. That’s when then Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) lost.
Republicans are looking for a remake of that, as slim as it was. Democrats should worry. The cautionary tale, although now 10-years ago, is that all the GOP has to do is slice more than 10 percent into a usually Democratic-leaning Black voter pot to capture the White House. What about the Latino vote, though? That’s a different story – while Latinos tilt Democratic, a solid half are staying Independent and nearly a quarter of those Independents lean Republican, according to Gallup. And, suddenly, Republicans have managed to turn the immigration fracas on its head, creatively taking heat off their anti-migrant platform and successfully painting a distortion of President Obama as a deporting, anti-Latino tyrant who can’t control the border.
Plus (and we’ll talk about this later), the Latino electorate is maybe more of a shove than it is a punch at the moment.