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Will on the GOP's Western Problem

George Will's Sunday column took a position with which I'm quite sympathetic, that not only is the Tancredo wing of the GOP wrong on immigration, but it's also short-sighted politically in its willingness to alienate Latino voters. Winning Latinos doesn't have to mean amnesty or open borders, but it does mean keeping your distance from, say, the Minutemen.

Anyway, toward the end, Will got into just how close the election was out West in 2004, as a warning to Republicans:

Remember this: Out West, feelings of all sorts about immigration policy are particularly intense, and if John Kerry had won a total of 127,014 more votes in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, states with burgeoning Latino populations, he would have carried those states and won the election.

It's actually worse than that. I'm not sure what Will's source for the 127,014 votes is, but the number I came up with in my book -- and which the fact checkers at the Atlantic went over for the excerpt in this month's issue -- is fewer than 70,000 votes that would have needed to switch from Bush to Kerry in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado to flip the election.

Using the Washington Post's final listing of election results, one gets the following:

New Mexico: margin of 6,047
Nevada: margin of 21,567
Colorado: margin of 107,567

Add those up and you have just more than a 135,000-vote margin in those three states, meaning half -- a little under 70,000 -- would have to switch from Bush to Kerry to arrive at a Kerry electoral-college victory.

This is all, of course, just playing with numbers. But it does make clear that just as much as 60,000-odd votes would have flipped Ohio and the election, 60,000-odd votes would have flipped the Southwest and the election.

The Southwest and the greater interior West constitute a swing region that the GOP needs to start worrying about.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in America is strongest in the South, and the issue can be used strategically in races throughout the country. But it's very dangerous to the GOP in the West.