One interesting thing has happened already in the post-mortems for the 2012 race: everyone, even the Republican wingnuts, agrees that the GOP must go after the Latino vote. Going after blacks is historically unlikely, and the party just has too many fences to mend with women, so Latinos it is. The final 2012 state, Florida, hadn’t even finished counting its ballots, before senior Republicans were sharing with the country their sudden epiphany on the immigration issue.
The problem for the Republicans is two-fold. First, Latinos aren’t stupid, and they haven’t forgotten the toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed by the GOP in recent years. Second, the obvious GOP options for Latino candidacies are not so obvious when you look more closely. Marco Rubio and Susana Martinez are both new on the scene, taking office in 2011; they are both very conservative, they both have very thin resumes, and they both have ethical troubles. “I am the son of exiles!...Umm, no I’m not, sorry!” Rubio has the added advantage of being from Florida, but he also has the stench of Dick Cheney all over him. Ted Cruz is ineligible for the national ticket because he was born in Canada.
The Democrats have Julian Castro in their back pocket. Castro has only been mayor since 2009, and running for a state-wide election in Texas is a longshot, so a good cabinet job might be the thing to make him a viable VP contender. Meanwhile the Democrats should finally begin building their party in Texas and making Texas a purple state. Villaraigosa has ethical baggage and should be avoided.
The GOP could indeed go after women, possibly by nominating Kelly Ayotte; Nikki Haley on the other hand has some baggage. The Democrats obviously can counter with Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren or one of the other Senate newcomers like Tammy Baldwin. And the GOP is unlikely to back away from its anti-abortion stance any time soon, which means the GOP ship will always be taking on water, in terms of women voters.
If the election is fought in one of these areas, the Republicans will be on offense because the Democrats have huge advantages within these groups now, and are more likely to lose support among these groups than gain it. But in both cases, the policies of the GOP will help the Democrats retain these supporters.