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May 24, 2012 10:31 AM Mitt’s Message To Hispanics: You Ain’t Special!

By Ed Kilgore

A year ago, one of the most commonly discussed scenarios for an Obama defeat in 2012 was his potential weakness among Hispanic voters, an important part of his 2008 coalition (and crucial in several battleground states) that had suffered disproportionately from bad economic times and whose leaders were tangibly unhappy with the president for failing to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.

Today an oversample of Hispanic voters in a NBC-Wall Street Journal survey supplies the latest evidence that Obama may be on track to match his 2008 performance among Hispanic voters: he currently leads Romney by a 61-27 margin, within range of his 67-31 margin over McCain in 2008. Romney’s famously hard-line position on immigration, which he used to great effect in the primaries to validate himself among conservatives (and to dispatch Rick Perry), is presumably a factor in his poor standing among Hispanics (outside the Cuban-American and Puerto Rican communities where there is relatively little concern about immigration policy).

Interestingly enough, the same day this survey was released Romney spoke to a prominent Hispanic business group called the Latino Coalition—and, as TPM’s Benjy Sarlin explains, did not mention immigration policy even once:

Romney’s lack of any reference to immigration on Wednesday was especially glaring given that the Latino Coalition has strongly advocated for comprehensive immigration reforms in recent years. While Romney’s speech was warmly received, several attendees told TPM they hoped he would get his act together now that the general election had begun.
Angela Franco, president of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a personal supporter of Romney, said she believed he needed to come up with a more productive plan than “self deportation” — and soon.
“You can’t take everyone out of the country because they support a lot of the economy — hospitality, restaurants, everywhere you go there are Hispanic people working,” she told TPM. “It’s something that needs to be addressed. He cant just close his eyes and say, ‘We’ll deal with it later,’ it’s something he needs to take over and have a solution.”
The contrast grew more pronounced later in the day, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), considered high on Romney’s list of potential running mates, addressed the crowd to register his disgust at Congress’s inability to help “young people who find themselves in an undocumented status through no fault of their own.”

Perhaps Romney is going to modify his position on immigration somewhere down the line, or appeal to Hispanics via the choice of a running-mate (e.g., Marco Rubio). Maybe he’s convinced that lower turnout will reduce the effect of Obama’s advantage in this demographic. Quite possibly he’s just determined to stick with his “economic referendum” message day in and day out, regardless of the audience (which might be viewed as admirable if he had not pandered so egregiously to conservative constituencies during the primaries). But at the moment, the message he’s sending to Hispanics specifically is that they are not “special” enough to deserve an answer to their questions about his policies.

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.

Comments

  • T2 on May 24, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I think sticking with the Economic Referendum is absolutely the best policy for Romney. And he really has no choice. They really don't have any other bullets in their gun, do they?
    And I'm sure that's the line of attack most favored by his bosses in the GOP. They've laid the groundwork by doing whatever they could do to wreck the economy and any glimmer of recovery to bolster that very line of attack against Obama.
    The new flap about the Debt Ceiling and their walk-back on the Deficit Agreement from last year is proof that causing uncertainty in the economic realm is their plan and goal.
    So, either the economy sputters to a halt by November and they win with that plan, or modest improvement continues and the public decides to stay the course.

  • boatboy_srq on May 24, 2012 11:03 AM:

    @T2:

    Romney does, indeed have a choice, and quite a meaningful one. He can continue spouting off on his economic "plan" (which has about as much substance as Ryan's "budget" and about as many pitfalls), or he can go back to saying what the constituency du jour wants to hear, and feign(?) ignorance of those statements when in front of the next group or the next actual practicing journalist (though apparently we'll have to wait a bit for that last person). The latter approach did pretty well for him in the primaries: look how many people nodded along with him saying something completely different from what he'd told the last group/interviewer.

    Neither of these, however, is a particularly winning strategy. Unless the former can be tuned to address the concerns of a particular group without resorting to Tea Party talking points, then it's meaningless. And if he indulges in enough of the latter sooner or later the gyrations will catch up with him - just not with the 27% who have their minds made up for them already and aren't really bothering to listen anyway.

  • low-tech cyclist on May 24, 2012 11:08 AM:

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), considered high on Romney’s list of potential running mates, addressed the crowd to register his disgust at Congress’s inability to help “young people who find themselves in an undocumented status through no fault of their own.”

    And how'd the Senate vote on the DREAM Act? Oh yeah: in 2010, it got 59 Dem votes, and 0 Republican votes.

    One more instance of obstruction where 'Congress' is properly spelled R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N-S. But for obvious reasons, Sen. Rubio can't say that out loud.

  • kindness on May 24, 2012 11:10 AM:

    Rubio is a hypocrite. While I feel he probably does have concerns about the Hispanic community I believe that concern is limited to the Cuban community rather than the larger Hispanic Community at large. Rubio says things that sound placating to Hispanics but there is no 'there' there when you try to define what he says. Rubio has thrown his lot with the hard core of the Republican party and sadly that hard core does not like brown skinned peoples and isn't ashamed to act like it.

  • Peter C on May 24, 2012 11:18 AM:

    "it’s something he needs to take over and have a solution.” - Angela Franco, president of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a personal supporter of Romney

    Angela is deluded. She should know that Republicans don't do "solutions" - they "send messages". They had 6 years with TOTAL control (2001 - 2007) and made NOTHING better. They stir their low-information-voter-base with fear and hatred of Hispanics, but they have no incentive to actually improve the 'problem' of illegal immigration because they are the chief beneficiaries of illegal immigration.

    Illegal immigration provides cheap (union-free) labor that can be mistreated by business; that benefits the 1% (by weakening unions and putting the middle class in a perilous and fear-laden position.

    Illegal immigration provides 'disposable domestics' (maids, gardeners, nannies) willing to cheaply make the lives of the ruling 1% less messy.

    Illegal immigrants are a 'blame sponge'; they are the 'other' who acts as the scape-goat, providing the 'reason' that life is so hard. The 'business owners/job creators' have no choice but to use them; they are 'forced' by 'economics'; it's not THEIR fault that citizens are layed off. No, it was BIG GOVERNMENT INEFFICIENCY that was the real culprit.

    Not having bothered with foreign language in school, the base finds that illigal immigrants speak in a scary and 'secret' way and could be saying 'anything'. Anyone speaking like them is similarly threatening and 'other'.

    And, best of all, they help explain Republican wins in the southwest. Hispanics are all Catholics, you see, and thus vote 'pro-life' when they get their citizenship. Besides, Bush speaks spanish and 'clears brush' and 'wears cowboy boots'!

    There is a good reason that illegal immigration did not get better in the Bush years. It is too valuable a problem to actually solve. The 1% could not do without them.

  • Bob R on May 24, 2012 11:37 AM:

    Why even the discussion? Romney's Hispanic support has reached the Crazification Threshold - 27%.

    That's it. Game over. Once a position or politician are supported by only 27%, any meaningful discourse has ended.

  • Tired Liberal on May 24, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Mitt does have a plan. The children of immigrants can go to private schools as part of Mitt's school choice plan because teachers unions are BAD. Then when they graduate from high school they will find that they are ineligible for student loans and must pay nonresident tuition to attend college, so they will not be able to afford college. That will give us an endless supply of highly literate agriculture and service industry workers.

  • c u n d gulag on May 24, 2012 1:16 PM:

    Angela Franco, president of the Greater Washington...

    So and so, head of the Log Cabin R's.y...

    What fools!
    Being who they are, and still support R's, they might as well be the heads of "Chickens for Col. Sanders!"
    Or, the bodies - since I the Col. probably outsources the head and feet to China, where they're a delicacy.