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By Kirk Clay

Political Trends May Reset 2012 Electoral Map

Every Thursday, I take my son to winter baseball camp. I enjoy watching him learn the fundamentals of fielding, throwing, and hitting. I watch him go over the same routine countless times so he’s prepared to make a clutch play if needed. As his dad and coach, I remind myself about Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson’s quote which speaks to the significance of me being there as the coach/manager for my son, “I’ll tell you what makes a great manager: A great manager has a knack for letting you know that they believe in you. They make you get more out of yourself. And once you learn how good you really are, you never settle for playing anything less than your best.”

I wish we could say the same about the GOP’s commitment to civil and human rights. They have made many attempts at garnering support among People of Color.  But as this week’s Arizona Republican debate came to an end, I began to contemplate if the GOP will lose that support.

For instance, the candidates’ answers on immigration reform made me wonder if they truly understood the depth of the firestorm that their “anti-immigration” rhetoric was fueling.  They threatened to veto the Dream Act, expressed full throated support of regressive Arizona-style immigration laws, and they were noticeably silent during the Adalberto Jordan scuffle.

Are they aware of the impact that these positions will have on People of Color when they vote?  Do they realize that these remarks indicate a pull away from any type of commitment to civil and human rights which was used by George Bush to sway People of Color to join the GOP bandwagon? 

Or maybe this suggests that they are ignoring the power that Arizona’s Voters of Color bring to the ballot box and gambling on the past where McCain won his home state by nine percent in 2008, Bush won by nine percent in 2004 and Bush won by six percent in 2000.  In fact, Bush won over forty percent of the Latino vote in 2004.  Maybe they believe they can back away from civil rights issues because they can win without any votes from People of Color.

What the GOP may not understand is that their policies toward Voters of Color (VOC) are turning states like Arizona into a battleground due to significant population shifts.  Remember that according to the 2010 census, Arizona’s population increased significantly in the last ten years. They gained a new congressional seat plus an extra Electoral College vote.
My advice to “political experts” is to not underestimate the VOC voting machine. For example, People of Color in Arizona make up 24% of the voting age population and in 2008 an impressive 74% of those registered to vote went to the polls. In fact, Voters of Color made up 18% of the vote share in the general election.

This number increased to 20% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. Think about what could happen in 2012 if every eligible Voter of Color is energized? Particularly in cities like Phoenix where the population grew by 9.4% to 1,445,632 which included more than 280,000 “Key” Voters of Color. These Phoenix voters recently elected a Latino City Councilman and a new Democrat Mayor.

Keep this in mind– the entire Electoral College math could shift if significant investments by progressives, philanthropists, labor and political insiders were made to energize and turnout POC voters in Arizona.  If this happens and Arizona becomes a CLUTCH state, it could go from red to blue.  

Whether or not this is the year that Arizona becomes a CLUTCH State is unclear. The political geography and demographic numbers are there. All that’s needed is the level of support required to build the electoral vehicle to get the best performance from the emerging electorate.  I believe that the time has come for a political game changer to step to the plate. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC