A Republican "ice age"?

A prominent GOP strategist says demographics could spell doom for his party

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 12, 2009 5:45PM (EDT)

When Republican strategist Mike Murphy talks, the party really should listen. The guy was chief strategist on John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign (OK, that didn't go so well, but still ...) and has been a part of more than two dozen successful senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns, advising Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Jeff Sessions, among others. His latest essay for Time magazine doesn't say anything revolutionary, but it's a message the GOP desperately needs to hear if it wants to survive.

"I've made a career out of counting votes, and the numbers tell a clear story; the demographics of America are changing in a way that is deadly for the Republican Party as it exists today. A GOP ice age is on the way," Murphy writes. "Rather than face up to all this, too many in the GOP are stuck in a swoon of nostalgia. Most of our party leaders come from bloodred GOP states or safe districts, so they are far more at home in the tribal politics of Republican primaries than in those of the country as a whole. You could say their radio dials are stuck on AM. The result is we hear a lot about going back to 'the winning ways of Ronald Reagan.' Well, I love Reagan too. But demographics no longer do."

Murphy's basic point is that Republicans have to start appealing to two major demographic groups they have had little success with recently: Latinos and young people. He points to Indiana, a state President Obama won in 2008 , as an example of the benefit wooing Latinos has had for the Democratic Party, and the damage it's done to the GOP.

And so, Murphy says, "Young voters need to see a GOP that is more socially libertarian, particularly toward gay rights ... Latinos need to see a quick end to the Republican congressional jihad on immigration."

That sounds about right. As I've written before, without a serious effort to reach out to Latinos, the GOP could find itself wandering in the desert for 40 years -- and that time frame isn't just a biblical allusion. If they're not careful, they could even lose Texas soon.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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