I have been following the interesting discussion at fivethirtyeight about what further losses among Latino voters would mean for the Republican Party. Andrew Gelman sums it up by arguing that all Republicans really need is a 4% national swing by 2012. For a couple of reasons, I have to disagree with this assessment, and argue that Republicans actually need more than a 4% national swing. Here is why:
Republicans have lost ground since the election: Across every poll measuring party favorability, Republicans have lost ground since late October of 2008. Over the past three months, the average decline for Republicans has been 8.5% (across four polling firms). By contrast, Democrats have gained ground in the majority of such polls, moving up an average of 5.8% over the last three months compared to late October. Overall, Republicans have seen their net favorable gap on Democrats increase by more than 14% since later October.
The nation still moving away from Republicans demographically, too. It can't be emphasized enough that Michael Dukakis would have won the 2008 election. His exit polls of 40% among whites, 89% among African-Americans, and 70% among Latinos is enough to reach 50%+1 now, even in the event that African-American turnout was only 12% of the vote instead of 13%. That is an 8% shift toward Democrats in just twenty years, leading to a crude rate of 0.5% a year, or 2% every four years. Demographic trends are so bad for Republicans that Dukakis would be able to win a landslide in 2012. That's pretty bad.
As such, moving the country 4% isn't enough right now. They are viewed less favorably then they were just before losing by 7%+ in the Presidential election, and by 8.90% in the House elections. On top of it, they are pretty much guaranteed to lose even more. From where the country stands right now, they need a minimum national shift of 6% just to tie, and possibly even more.