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.