In newly released comments from his previously off-the-record conversation with the Des Moines Register editorial board, President Obama unequivocally makes the case for immigration reform as a priority for 2013, while also recognizing that Latino voters’ support will have been decisive if he is able to win re-election.
President Obama stated:
The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The President is right. The road to his re-election goes through the Latino community. And there are two main reasons President Obama is likely to win over Latino voters by a historic 3-1 margin: 1) the lurch to the right by Romney – with his talk of ‘self-deportation,’ his promise to veto the DREAM Act, and his vow to stop the DREAMer deferred action program; and 2) after a disappointing first few years on immigration, President Obama put some skin in the game by taking bold action in June to protect 1.4 million DREAMers. If Obama wins, in 2013 the Republican Party will have to come to the table to work on immigration reform that includes citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants or else deepen the political hole they have dug for themselves with the fastest growing group of new voters in the country.
A range of outside observers are coming to similar conclusions. Ron Brownstein of National Journal highlighted that:
Republican strategists clearly feel the weight of trying to assemble a national majority with so little support among minorities that they must win three in five whites…A GOP coalition that relies almost entirely on whites could squeeze out one more narrow victory in November. But if Republicans can’t find more effective ways to bridge the priorities of their conservative core and the diversifying Next America, that weight will grow more daunting every year.
Brownstein also quotes an unnamed GOP strategist referring to Romney’s potential path to victory that virtually excludes support from Latino voters:
This is the last time anyone will try to do this.
Nate Cohn, the author of The New Republic’s Electionate polling blog, captured the dynamics well earlier this week, writing:
[If] Obama regenerates Latino turnout and wins Latino voters by as much or more than he did in ’08 in states like Colorado, Nevada, or Florida, there’s a chance we look back on the Republican decision to oppose comprehensive immigration reform (not to mention the DREAM Act) as the moment that ultimately cost them the 2012 election.