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GOP Can’t Count on Marco Rubio To Solve Their “Latino Problem”

by Mahwish Khan on 07/13/2011 at 3:27am

Marco RubioFlorida’s golden boy, Senator Marco Rubio, doesn’t seem to have it very easy these days — and he’s got nobody to blame but himself.

Once thought to have been the GOP’s solution to its Latino problem, Marco Rubio’s move to the right on immigration (from his previous stance of saying as little as possible on the issue) is a dubious strategy, to say the least, to curry favor with Latino voters. This is especially true as immigration remains the most important issue to the majority of them (particularly to those from his own state), ahead of jobs and the economy.

Of course, Republicans in the House and Senate still don’t get it. They think that having a Latino last name is all it takes to get a candidate “in” with Latino voters. In fact, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the GOP’s self-appointed strategist on Latino voting (who also leads the GOP’s Mass Deportation Caucus), frequently cites the elections of Marco Rubio in Florida, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, and Brian Sandoval in Nevada as proof that the Republican Party can compete for Latino voters without changing its stance on immigration reform.

They’re pretty mistaken. Ruben Navarrette points that out in his well-written column, “For Latinos, Rubio Is a Falling Star”:

Poor Marco RubioFlorida’s junior senator could have been a contender. Instead, he’s become a caricature.

In parts of the Hispanic community, Rubio is thought of as just another ambitious politician who is willing to sell out Latinos to curry favor with Anglo colleagues. That’s what you hear from Internet chatter, letters to the editor, Latino listserves and comments on Spanish-language media.

Just seven months after taking office, the Republicans’ great Latino hope has squandered the one thing that made him unique, interesting and valuable to his party: the potential that he could help mend fences with disaffected Latino voters alienated by the GOP’s simplistic and mean-spirited approach to the immigration issue.

Over the last few years, Republicans have dug themselves into a hole with Latino voters, and Rubio was supposed to help pull them out. It’s one reason that Beltway pundits continue to speculate whether he could wind up as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 and whether this alone would be enough to convince Latinos to give Republicans a fair hearing.

This is what Rubio was supposed to bring to the party. Otherwise, what good is he to his colleagues if he can only deliver votes – for instance, from tea partiers – that would probably go to Republicans anyway?

Rubio is becoming persona non grata among Latinos outside of the Cuban-American community, which represents only 3 percent of the Latino population in the United States. Specifically, he is becoming intensely disliked by many naturalized Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, who make up as much as 67 percent of the U.S. Latino population. Those voters could impact the electoral outcome in battleground states such as Colorado and New Mexico, and in vote-rich states such as Texas and California.

And all this has happened because, since arriving in Washington, Rubio has followed his party’s pitiful example of dealing with the immigration issue in a clumsy, reactionary and unimaginative way.

Navarrette also reports that Marco Rubio is currently co-sponsoring Senator Charles Grassley’s E-Verify legislation, which our colleague Maribel Hastings also wrote about last month at Univision.com.   E-Verify will have a profoundly damaging effect on the US economy. This has already been illustrated in Georgia, where the agriculture industry has lost millions of dollars, all because the state passed an E-Verify bill last month and scared away thousands of (much-needed) skilled migrant workers. Rubio also doesn’t support the DREAM Act, claiming that its “part of some broader effort to grant blanket amnesty,” and stands behind the unconstitutional and repressive Arizona immigration law. The House version of E-Verify is sponsored by the above mentioned Rep. Lamar Smith.

Keep in mind that this blistering analysis on Rubio is from the same guy who wrote, in his March 31st column:

Marco Rubio is the Republican Party’s Superman.  And, the immigration issue, if not handled correctly, is his kryptonite.

Rubio’s views on immigration is already damaging his once-promising political career. Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the country, and without their support, candidates like Rubio – even with their Latino last names — won’t last very long.

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