Why Romney Has Blown It With Latino Voters


Most political reporters and the outlets they work for still don’t understand why Latino voters are overwhelmingly supporting President Obama over Republican Mitt Romney. Typical of the confusion was this lede on a Politico story a couple of weeks ago: “American Hispanic voters are more concerned about health care and unemployment than they are about immigration, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.”

“In fact,” the piece went on, as if this were a blinding insight, “only 12 percent of Hispanic registered voters said that immigration policy is the most important issue to them.”

All together now, loyal Calbuzz readers: “No duh.”

As we have explained as far back as the 2010 GOP primary race for governor — when eMeg Whitman came out against a path to citizenship in order not to get outflanked on immigration by Steve Poizner – Republicans who oppose finding a way for undocumented workers to become legal residents of the U.S. poison themselves among Latino voters.

We’ve even tried to explain this to the Republican Party itself along with other arguments here, for example, and even quoted Stu Spencer, the great Ronald Reagan strategist, on the issue. Still, Republican candidates who are afraid of the anti-immigrant wing of their party, strategists who think they can sidestep the issue and political writers who can’t think it through, continue to confuse Latinos’ concern about immigration with their deeply-held, innate sensibilities about the issue.

Juan Williams of Fox News clearly understood the dynamic, in an interview with John McCain last May, when he said: “Well, let’s look at the likely GOP nominee stance.  Mitt Romney, on immigration reform, opposes the Dream Act, opposes Pathways to Citizenship.  In fact, he’s calling for self-deportation.  He opposes guest worker programs, opposes tuition breaks for undocumented kids who are in the United States.  Why would Hispanics vote for that candidate?”

Exactly. But that’s the exception, not the rule, among the MSM. So let’s try again.

Memo to Beltway geniuses: When pollsters ask people to name the most important issue to them, the vast majority will say the economy and jobs, education and health care, national defense and the like. These are the concerns that most people – including Latinos – have about the nation.

An issue like abortion, for example doesn’t register in the top tier of issues. But for huge numbers of women – most Democratic and independent women and many Republican women – even though the economy or national defense is their No. 1 issue, once they hear that a candidate is pro-life, they don’t care what their stand is on the economy or national defense or anything else. That candidate is off the table.

These are not single-issue voters necessarily. For them, choice is a heuristic, a cue, or what we call a “threshold issue.” Anyone on the other side is not someone they can vote for. (This can be true for adamant pro-life voters as well.)

For many Latinos, once they know a candidate is against a pathway to citizenship for them, their children, their cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors and church members, it doesn’t matter what their position is on jobs and the economy. That candidate is dead to them.

This is why Latino Decisions reported:

New polling released June 22, 2012 by Latino Decisions and America’s Voice finds President Obama maintaining a wide lead over Republican Mitt Romney among Latino registered voters in five key battleground states.  The poll interviewed 400 Latinos each in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia – all states expected to be very competitive in 2012 where Latino voters could decide the outcome.  In Florida, the poll found Obama leading Romney by a margin of 53% to 37%, a slight increase from a 50% to 40% lead Obama held over Romney in a January 2012 Latino Decisions/Univision News poll in Florida.  In the five states combined Obama lead Romney 63% to 27%, however in southwestern battlegrounds of Arizona, Colorado and Nevada Obama performed even better.  In Arizona Obama received 74% to 18% for Romney, in Colorado he was favored by 70% to 22% and in Nevada 69% to 20%.  In Virginia, Obama lead 59% to 28% over Romney among Latino registered voters.

It’s why USA Today reported:

The president leads Romney 66%-25% among more than 1,000 Latino registered voters surveyed April 16 to May 31, matching his muscular showing in the 2008 election among Hispanics. Romney is in the weakest position among Latinos of any presidential contender since 1996 — and in those intervening 16 years their percentage of the electorate has doubled.

Stu who? And that was before Obama boosted enthusiasm among Latino voters by announcing that he would block the deportation of an estimated 800,000 undocumented young Latinos who came to the U.S. as children. A follow-up USA Today/Gallup survey found that more than eight in 10 Latinos approve of the president’s action, most of them strongly.

This is why, in California, the Field Poll found Latinos supporting Obama over Romney 66-22% — a 44-point margin!

Despite everything the Republican camp argues on this issue – especially that Romney would be doing better if only Latino voters knew his position on jobs and the economy and freedom – this is NOT just a failure to communicate. It’s a failure to connect on the most basic level with a huge portion of the electorate.

As we’ve noted before, it was in November 1997 that Stu Spencer warned the Republican Party, “We are dramatically losing market share of the fastest growing segment of the electorate . . . The stakes are too high for us to act like political ostriches and ignore the challenges we face.”

It’s clear that on this issue, Romney is one more Republican with his head in the sand.

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There are 8 comments for this post

  1. avatar gdewar says:

    there are plenty of concerns about the broke-ass immigration system on all sides. NO ONE is winning a thing and there’s too much to be gained by allowing “illegals” (some people’s words) to come here – you can pay them squat and they can’t complain. Sound familiar? O hai! Teh APARTHEID!”

    More importantly, you have a class of people who have the fervent belief that if you have darker skin you MUST be an “illegal.” Just ask the birthers, and the people who literally think Mayor Villaraigosa, by his skin color MUST be an “illegal” and ergo also a “socialist” (because apparently politics are in DNA, not the brain?)

    Sound crazy? Duh. Sound scary if you’re not a white person over 50 passing this stuff? HELL YES.

    As for me, I’d happilly support the party that does the following:

    -lower taxes on the self employed
    -create a solid, intelligent immigration policy
    -uses the full force of the “gummmint” to nuke anyone that dares employ an “illegal”
    -forces all to pay the same minimum wage to “illegals” as to US citizens (and makes ’em pay the IRS jerks)
    -and keeps the government out of my or my friends’ private lives.

    Let me know when you come up with that. Oh and also, follow the actual Constitution, not the one made up out of someone hyporcite’s bulsquat.


    • avatar gdewar says:

      and to the haters about to respond – at least I use my real name I dare you to use yours.

      even better, just tell me why if a “brown” person is near me they’re more likely to be an “illegal” than someone who’s a 5th generation resident.


    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      You bring up good points. Why, indeed.

      My mother- and father-in-law were both undocumented immigrants until the 1980s, when the last round of immigration reform offered them a pthway to citizenship. They came across the Rio Grande in the later 1950s and ultimately settled near Corpus Christi, TX where they established their family and raised ten children. Eight of those ten children went on to serve in the U.S. military, including my wife, who served as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and reitred two years ago.

      It’s hard to explain wingbat attitudes to my daughter, who gets regularly pulled aside at airport security checkpoints down in the southern U.S. and Arizona, and asked to prove her citizenship when she’s on a road trip with her college volleyball teammates. A couple of times, she’s even been stripsearched.

      She laughs it off to me, but I can see in her eyes how infuriating and degrading it really is to be subjected to such treatment, under suspicion simply because she happens to have brown skin, brown eyes and dark hair.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    You might consider using the term “anti-choice” instead of “pro-life” as we are all pro-life and we are all anti-abortion — that is the need for abortion — and the sentient among us are pro-sex education, pro-birth-control, and pro-choice.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Thank you Tony. That raised my hackles too.

      I have a hard time calling anybody pro-life if they don’t want to provide pre-natal care. If they don’t want mothers and children to have enough food or the medical care to stay healthy. If they don’t want to fund public education so all children can develop their full potential. Or if they don’t give a hoot about the life and health of women and girls who bear the brunt of their medieval mindset that female bodies are the property of men. Simply forcing women to give birth is not pro-life.

      In fact, it can end the life of a girl who has been raped at a young age. It can end the life of a mother with serious medical complications. It can end in death for a fetus with serious medical issues that can’t be addressed–either because medical science isn’t able to, or because the mother has no access to medical care. It can end in death for young children born into situations where nobody is able to care for them, or where there are problems of domestic violence or substance abuse. And no supposedly “pro-life” person I’ve ever met has been able to tell me how endangering the lives of these girls, women is pro-life. Or why they lose interest in babies as soon as they’re conceived or born.

      However, Calbuzz is right that I’d never consider voting for any candidate that held these views–no matter what other policies they espouse.

  3. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    “pro-life” is just another example of conservatives’ ability to take over the language. Remember when “liberal” was an OK word? Now liberals have had to switch to “progressive.” “Obamacare” began as an epithet against the Affordable Care Act. Now it’s crept into MSM used by everyone. The latest neat trick conservatives (Republicans) are getting away with is to say they want “tax relief for everyone” when they want to continue the Bush tax cuts for billionaires. It’s a neat trick and it’s working.

    • avatar hclark says:

      On Obamacare – I’m pretty sure that the adoption of the handle by supporters of the ACA is a successful attempt to turn the Frank Luntz term around on them.

  4. avatar FriendToAll says:

    Nice use of “heuristic.” Didn’t understand any of the other words, though.

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