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Mitt Romney’s “Winning” Latino Strategy

by Mahwish Khan on 09/24/2012 at 1:41pm

The Romney campaign revealed a new Latino strategy at last week’s Univisión forum and it “worked”…for 35 minutes.  A BuzzFeed interview with Univisión’s Maria Elena Salinas reveals the true story behind the boisterous audience at last week’s Univisión forum with Mitt Romney, and the far more reserved audience that welcomed President Obama.

Although both candidates had committed to a students-only audience during the Univision interviews, according to BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins the Romney campaign was unable to identify enough sympathetic, conservative students to fill the seats.  They threatened to “reschedule” unless Univisión would make an exception.  After Univisión agreed, Coppins writes:

Romney’s team was allowed to bus in rowdy activists from around southern Florida in order to fill the extra seats at their town hall. Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, stuck to the original parameters and allowed a large chunk of the tickets to be distributed to interested students on campus…Salinas said both candidates ultimately had partisan crowds at their forums, but that Romney’s non-student activists ignored instructions to hold their applause.

Said Salinas, “We were a little bit thrown because it was supposed to be a TV show, it wasn’t a rally…It was a little bit of disrespect for us.”

While Mitt Romney was able to stack the deck in his favor during his 35-minute interview (while Obama sat for a full 60 minutes), he won’t be able to engineer the Latino electorate so precisely in November.  In fact, the latest impreMedia/Latino Decisions tracking poll shows that Obama continues to consolidate his high levels of Latino support, now leading Romney 69%-24%, and enthusiasm is growing.

According to Gary Segura of Latino Decisions:

46% of Latinos overall are more enthusiastic this year, compared with only 29% reporting greater enthusiasm four years ago. This is an almost perfect reversal of our findings from last November, one year before the election, and no doubt a reflection of both the administrations’ efforts on immigration and the GOP rhetoric during their primary season and its effects on the Romney candidacy.

And from our own executive director, Frank Sharry:

“Oh, how looks can be deceiving. Last week’s forum was the perfect example of Romney’s Latino outreach strategy: ‘cherry-pick Latino supporters, have them cheer loud enough to drown out Romney’s vacuous responses, and declare victory after the fact.’  The bad news for Republicans is that while turning out supporters for the Univisión forum is Romney’s biggest Latino victory so far, progressive organizations and the Obama campaign are focused on turning out voters for the election.”

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