Political Animal


May 04, 2012 5:44 PM Great White Hope

By Ed Kilgore

I’ll have to admit I didn’t see this coming: an argument that Mitt Romney’s best strategy for mitigating his potentially disastrous losses among Hispanic voters this November is to choose as his running mate the ultimate boring white guy from Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman.

McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed makes the case:

As Mitt Romney’s campaign drags its feet with Hispanic outreach, many Republicans are hoping their nominee will improve his prospects among the nation’s fastest-growing voter demographic by adding a strategic running mate to the ticket.
But while pundits have pegged Marco Rubio as Romney’s best hope, the real solution may reside well north of Florida.
“Honest to God, the person that has the best credentials on Latino issues is [Ohio Senator] Rob Portman,” said one high-profile immigration advocate, requesting anonymity to avoid appearing to boost the Republican ticket. “If you look at his record in Congress, he was for comprehensive immigration reform. The truth is, he would have a lot of credibility.”
Portman’s record has remained remarkably pro-immigrant over the years even as his party has adopted an increasingly hard line on immigration. In the House, he voted against reporting illegal immigrants who receive hospital treatment, and in favor of granting more immigrant visas for skilled workers. In 2003, the Federation for American Immigration Reform gave Portman a 0 percent rating on the issue — placing him among the most ardent immigrant advocates in Congress. (Five years later, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz would receive the same rating.)

Turns out Portman can even speak Spanish, which means he can be boring in two languages.

But turns out even Portman has moved rhetorically to the right on immigration of late, and aside from the fact that he’s a conventional conservative (which means Mighty Right as well as Mighty White these days) on every other issue, his main advantage is that he’s not egregiously offensive to Hispanic voters:

Notably, Portman’s record has been much more conciliatory toward illegal immigrants than that of Rubio, who has fiercely opposed amnesty of any sort, and only recently began floating proposals to grant visas — not green cards — to undocumented soldiers and college students.
“I think Republicans are beginning to realize they can’t look to Rubio as a knight in shining armor,” said the immigration advocate. “If you look at his record, it’s just really bad… Romney can’t just look for a great brown hope, because there really isn’t one.”
And while Portman — still unknown by most people, including Hispanics — may not be a silver bullet either, Republican strategist Ana Navarro said in the modern GOP, he may be one Romney’s best options.
“He hasn’t been a visible leader for immigration reform like McCain was, but he also is not a known anti-immigrant,” Navarro said. “And that’s pretty good these days.”

Guess you go with what you’ve got.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • RepublicanPointOfView on May 04, 2012 5:57 PM:

    At least Portman would add instant credibility on managing budgets and deficits. After all, he has enormous experience and credit that he gained as budget director for Bush; helping run up all the budget surpluses that Obama squandered.

    I really appreciate the snark Ed - another great blog posting.

  • SadOldVet on May 04, 2012 6:02 PM:

    I suspect that the advertising displaying on this web page is targeted by locations. The top ad (here in Indiana) is an ad for Mourdock promoting ending the EPA. Paid for by Freedom Works for America, which I believe is a Karl Rove operation.

  • Simon on May 04, 2012 6:02 PM:

    I have to say I don't understand some of my fellow liberals perspectives on illegal immigration. What exactly is wrong with reporting illegal immigrants who receive hospital treatment? What is wrong with requiring documentation for attending school. I can understand that SB1070 encourages racial profiling, and I can groove on the fact that the DREAM act gives innocent successful kids a chance to succeed. But on things like this...I don't get it. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

  • Joe Friday on May 04, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Bring it on.

    Let Portman spend the campaign defending Bushonomics.

  • Alain on May 04, 2012 6:52 PM:


    In short, we don't want people not educating children or getting health care as it is bad for all of us, now and in the future. This is especially true for emergency care, which would be avoided for fear of being arrested and deported. That's how things like disease spread, and having undocumented folks dying is cruel and unAmerican. Also, schools and hospitals are not Federal immigration authorities - they provide education and health care, not law or ordinance enforcement.

  • bobbo on May 04, 2012 7:16 PM:

    My God, these people sound as if they are practically conceding the election.

  • Simon on May 04, 2012 7:21 PM:

    Thanks Alain for the response.

  • MikeJ on May 04, 2012 8:29 PM:

    "he also is not a known anti-immigrant"

    Which makes him totally unacceptable to the Republican base.

  • Ken on May 04, 2012 11:50 PM:

    @MikeJ: That's all right, Romney's already totally unacceptable to the Republican base. The only thing he has going for him is that Obama's more than totally unacceptable, so the base will vote for him anyway.

  • Rip on May 05, 2012 12:54 AM:

    Yeah, I'm sure there must be hundreds of thousands of Latinos sitting on the fence just waiting to see if Romney picks a veep who doesn't hate on immigrants as much as most Republicans.

    The arguments people make for why Romney could end up appealing to a majority of voters become more embarrassing the longer the election goes on.

  • j_h_r on May 05, 2012 8:23 AM:

    "Romney canít just look for a great brown hope..."

    not if you're going to call them THAT, no

  • Gov't Mule on May 05, 2012 10:11 AM:

    The last candidate to argue "competence" was Michael Dukakis and his campaign was about as successful as a lead zeppelin. R Money is unwitting tying himself to Bush by picking one of his business "gurus." But a closer examination of the record, just like Willard's, is that these self-proclaimed experts record is anything but.

  • Gov't Mule on May 05, 2012 10:19 AM:

    @Simon, the unintended consequences of your "what's the matter with..." hypothetical is you would have large populations of unsupervised children during the daytime. Depriving them of an education is unproductive and punishes children through no fault of their own. Likewise, reporting undocumented people in hospitals will lead to a fear even among legal immigrants of being deported just for seeking medical care. Moreover, if these people are reported and detained, they WILL STILL NEED MEDICAL CARE, which will be absorbed totally by the taxpayer. At least the possibility that someone might have insurance or self pay exists when they go to a hospital, but if you detain them for deportation it becomes the government's responsibility. Smooth move.