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Operation Gringo, Cont’d.

People are interpreting yesterday’s “Operation Gringo” post — and Andrew’s follow-up — in a lot of different ways, which is perfectly fine since they come to fairly nuanced conclusions. But the most salient point is probably this one: there is a good argument that Republicans should be giving up on Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado in the first place. And if they do give up on those states, the Hispanic vote isn’t all that much of a factor in 2012.

Let’s look at the basic starting parameters for the 2012 Republican nominee:

– You start out with 179 EV from the states McCain won, adjusted for projected changes in the electoral vote based on the 2010 Census. We’ll go ahead and give you credit for that last Electoral Vote in Nebraska.
– You need to find 91 more EV to win.
– 172 Obama EV are plausibly competitive; Of these votes 92 are in the Midwest, 56 are in the South; just 20 are in the West (with the last 4 in New Hampshire)

State 2008  2012 EV  Hisp%* Demographic Trends**
NC -0.3 15 3 Poor
IN -1.0 11 4 Neutral
FL -2.8 28 14 Neutral-Poor
OH -4.6 19 4 Neutral-Good
VA -6.3 13 5 Poor
CO -9.0 9 13 Poor
IA -9.5 6 3 Neutral
NH -9.6 4 2 Neutral-Poor
MN -10.2 10 3 Neutral
PA -10.3 20 4 Neutral
NV -12.5 6 15 Poor
WI -13.9 10 3 Neutral
NM -15.1 5 41 Poor
MI -16.5 16 3 Hard to Tell
* Based on 2008 exit polls;
** Entirely subjective.

As you start to pare down your list of targets, New Mexico and Nevada are probably going to be just about the first states to go anyway. They really didn’t wind up being at all that close in 2008, your “momentum” in both states is poor, and they don’t contain that many electoral votes. Colorado is slightly better, but not a whole heck of a lot better, and it’s been behaving as a very blue state since 2006 or so; both of its senators are Democratic, as its its governor and 5 of its 7 U.S. Reps.

If you excise those three Southwestern states, you still have a menu of 159 EV from which to choose, of which you need 91. And the remaining states are noteworthy for their relative absence of Hispanic voters. If you could gain ground in the Midwest or the South by pursing an anti-immigrant, anti-NAFTA, “America First” sort of platform, you really wouldn’t be putting all that much at risk by losing further ground among Latinos. Yes, you could make life (much) harder for yourself if you screwed up Florida or put Arizona into play in the process, but it’s not a bad strategy, all things considered.

About half the Hispanics in the United States reside in California or Texas, and another 20 percent are in New York, New Jersey or Illinois, none of which look to be competitive in 2012. (Yes, the Republicans could lose Texas, but probably only in a landslide). There just aren’t that many Hispanic voters near the electoral tipping point.

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Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.