Can Rubio Republicans Save the GOP?

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 10:39 AM EST

Latino voters dashed Republican hopes for a full takeover of Congress last week by swinging for Democratic senators in Nevada, California, and other key states. But the Wall Street Journal's John Fund thinks that there's still hope for the Republican Party to win back Latinos, pointing out that there will be a record number of Hispanic Republicans in the next Congress:

Two are from Texas and defeated Democratic incumbents - Bill Flores of Bryan and Quico Conseco from San Antonio. Jaime Herrera was elected to an open seat in Washington state. Raul Labrador defeated a Democratic incumbent in Idaho. David Rivera won an open House seat in Florida, just as Marco Rubio won that state's vacant U.S. Senate seat. In addition, Republicans elected two Hispanic governors -- prosecutor Susan Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval, a judge, in Nevada.

In fact, the national GOP made a concerted effort to diversify its ranks and recruit minority candidates who were still hardline conservatives. Some of the Latino Republicans who won—including Martinez, Sandoval, and Rubio—ran openly as immigration hawks, managing to win Hispanic votes even as they voiced vocal support for the Arizona law and tougher border security. Fund adds that Texas Gov. Rick Perry managed to win 38 percent of the Latino vote this year even as he hewed to a similar line, while Rubio netted 40 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote. Meanwhile, more moderate types like Labrador—a former immigration attorney—could help the GOP's Latino outreach.

But though the next Congress will bring greater diversity to the GOP's ranks, there's little sign that the party will stem its divisive, inflammatory attacks on immigrants and immigration. Incoming House leaders Steve King and Lamar Smith have put an immigration crackdown at the top of their agenda for the House Judiciary Committee, as I explain in my latest story. King is especially infamous for using noxious rhetoric to describe immigrants and will have a bigger bully pulpit than ever in the next Congress. If John Boehner lets them have their way, the Republican Party may only continue to alienate the Hispanic voters—unless, perhaps, some of its newly anointed Hispanic lawmakers decide to stand up their own party.