Yesterday’s voting showed a nation in which the white vote was nearly divided down the middle between Democrats and Republicans—and a Democratic party that found its edge among minorities, especially in newfound strength with Hispanics.
In fact, just months after House Republicans used a crackdown on illegal immigrants to energize their party’s conservative base, Hispanic voters responded yesterday at the voting booth, shifting decisively toward Democrats.
Exit polls showed more than seven in 10 Hispanics voted Democratic in races for House seats. Meanwhile, some 27% voted Republican—an 11-percentage-point drop from the prior midterm election in 2002.
The shift among Hispanics accentuated a growing gulf between the Republican Party and minority communities. White voters made up almost 80% of the electorate, and they divided their votes more or less evenly between Democratic and Republican House candidates, the exit polls showed. Minorities including Hispanics, Asians and blacks each favored Democrats; blacks gave nearly 90% of their votes to the party’s candidates.
In exit polls, 37% of Hispanic voters ranked illegal immigration as an issue that was ‘extremely important’ to them, compared with 29% of all racial demographic groups. In addition, 78% of Hispanic voters said most illegal immigrants should be given a chance to apply for legal status, compared with 57% from all demographic groups.
The issue of immigration is unresolved on Capitol Hill. The Senate rejected the House’s legislation, and the two chambers settled on a bill that called for building a wall and installing other new security protections along the Mexican border. Mr. Bush signed that measure into law in a White House ceremony that was specifically designed to appease the party’s anti-immigration wing.
With the 2008 presidential contest in mind, Republicans now may move more cautiously on legislation aimed at the millions of people in the U.S. illegally.
Mr. Bush fought hard to hold onto such states as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, all with high Hispanic populations. Democrats have already signaled they plan to fight for those electoral votes in two years.
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