The bottom line ?
To win re-election, President Obama must close the sale again with Latinos during the next two years. But if recent numbers from Public Policy Polling in key swing states are any indication, at least in potential head-to-head matchups against Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and (most especially) Sarah Palin, Obama is in as good a shape if not better in all four of Latino-pivotal swing states.
Beyond Obama’s fate, in general if Republican candidates in statewide contests for governor or U.S. Senate in heavily-Latino states can maintain support in the mid-40s, the Democrats are in deep trouble. This is especially true in states where the African American and/or Asian populations are small—such as in the Southwest—because there the GOP’s white voter advantage is sufficient to win statewide.
Whether the 2012 Republican presidential candidate needs to get 40 percent or more, and what set of policy positions on the economy and immigration will bring GOP presidential or statewide candidates to that level. But the post-2010 bottom line is not much different from what it was before either Barack Obama or the Tea Partiers arrived on the national scene: Republicans don’t need to carry the Latino vote—yet—but in the near term, and particularly in presidential cycles, they need to stay reasonably competitive.