Mitt Romney is poised to win the Florida Republican primary and polls suggest he will win with virtually all key demographic groups – including Hispanics. But given Romney’s controversial calls for “self-deportation,” his promise in Iowa to veto the DREAM Act, and his embrace of Arizona and Alabama immigration law author Kris Kobach in South Carolina, how can this be?
Ron Brownstein of National Journal explains: “Romney’s surprising advantage reflects the unusual dynamics of the illegal immigration issue in Florida. The issue is of much less direct concern to Hispanic voters here than in probably any other state, especially those who participate in Republican primaries.” Brownstein concludes, “…the issue of illegal immigration will likely create much more turbulence for the eventual GOP nominee among Hispanics in Florida and elsewhere, once it is debated outside of rooms that are filled mostly with conservative Cubans.”
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto of Latino Decisions further explains of Cuban voters, “this group by and large is not personally affected by immigration because of their legal status. This is not to say that Cuban-Americans do not support immigration reform or the DREAM Act, they simply are not as personally affected by the issue as Mexican immigrants. In the latest Univision-ABC-Latino Decisions poll, 36% of Cuban-American voters indicated immigration was the most important issue facing the Latino community, while half of Mexican-American voters named immigration their top concern.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The Hispanic Florida primary voter is a Cuban American voter. However, Cubans comprise only 5% of the nation’s Hispanic voters, and not all of them vote Republican in the general. This share is a far cry from the 40% of Hispanic voters needed by any GOP nominee to win the White House. If Romney becomes the nominee, his immigration positions will become a huge liability in the swing states out west, such as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. His hard line will also hurt him with Hispanic voters in Florida’s general election, a population that includes many Democratic-leaning Latin American immigrants and Puerto Ricans.”
Today, America’s Voice is putting out a timeline about the politics of immigration in Florida, which makes it clear that the Cuban American vote in a Republican primary is not the same thing as the Latino vote in a general election—in Florida or in other swing states.
A recent Univision/ABC/Latino Decisions poll found that nationwide, only 25% of Latino voters said they would vote for Romney, while 67% were planning to vote for President Obama. In another troubling sign for the presumptive GOP nominee, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) decided not to endorse a candidate before Florida’s Republican primary. As the New York Times reports, Bush made it “clear in television interviews and in conversations with friends that he is troubled by the sharpening tenor of the race, particularly on immigration. He voiced his concern directly to Mr. Romney, two people close to him said, urging him to moderate his oratory and views to avoid a collapse of support among Hispanic voters in the general election.”
Added Sharry, “Romney’s hard line on immigration may well be the end of the line for him with most Latino voters in America.”
- New America’s Voice Backgrounder, “Floridianos 101: A Crash Course in the Recent History of Latino Voters and the Immigration Issue in Florida Politics”