After surviving a brutal primary campaign against Steve Poizner that featured plenty of anti-immigration tough-talk and shameless demagoguery on immigration issues, California Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman is now trying to sing a different immigration tune – at least en Español.
Anticipating the increased importance of the Latino vote in the general election relative to the Republican primary, Whitman advisors told the New York Times at the conclusion of the primary that, in the general election, she “would move away from immigration to broaden her appeal.” Comprising over 21% of the electorate in 2008, the power of California Latino voters is undeniable. And Whitman’s positioning among Latinos – because of the way immigration played in the primary – is untenable. As Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican strategist in Los Angeles, recently said of the way Latinos perceive the GOP on immigration, “This issue is killing the Republican Party” and, regarding the way Whitman and Poizner talked about immigration in the primary, he added, “This is bringing back all the fears that the Republican Party is a white man’s party.”
One of the ads highlights Whitman’s opposition to a controversial Arizona law that compels police to check the immigration status of those stopped on suspicion of a crime. It also says Whitman opposed Proposition 187, the 1994 California ballot measure that would have denied taxpayer-funded services to illegal immigrants. The other focuses on jobs and the economy.
The reference to Proposition 187 is especially notable due to the continued presence of former Gov. Wilson in the Whitman campaign and Wilson’s starring role as a validator of Whitman’s “tough on immigration” stance in advertisements during the primary season. The Whitman campaign also unveiled a Latino-focused component of their campaign website, with information on Whitman’s support for the Latino community and stance on key issues to Latinos.”