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Time tries to handicap just how influential the Latino vote will be:
In national elections since the early 1990s, Republicans have had a floor of about 20% among Latinos, a group that includes a large population of Cuban Americans in Florida. Democrats have always won at least 55%. So about 25% of the Latino vote is at play in the middle. (In one survey, Romney now polls at 14% among Latinos…
For example, if Obama gets 69% of the Latino vote in Nevada (ceding to Romney just 31%), then Obama can still win the state by capturing only 47% of the non-Latino vote (ceding to Romney 53%). If Obama gets a little more than 63% of the Latino vote, then he needs to get 48% of the non-Latino vote.
Of course, given the number of Latino voters in key battleground states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida, Mitt Romney isn’t going to just stand still and ceded them to Obama. He’s going to try and retreat to the center after a primary campaign full of anti-immigrant rhetoric:
As the Romney campaign rejiggers for the general election, there will be a pivot, at least in tone, to appeal to Latino voters. The tough talk–advocating “self-deportation” and calling Arizona a “model” for the nation–will almost surely give way to more positive talk about the need for fair reforms to immigration law.
Whether or not this extreme pivoting will work, however, is an important question. The Kansas City Star today compares Romney to another wannabe-politician businessperson who tacked hard right on immigration during a primary campaign, only to find that she couldn’t take it back during the general. They’re talking about Meg Whitman, the eBay executive who lost a California gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown in 2010 after her harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric threw as much as 80% of the Latino vote to Brown:
Just as Whitman alienated Latino voters by morphing from a moderate to hard-liner on immigration, Romney’s tough primary rhetoric aimed at illegal immigration is weakening him with Latino voters, damaging his chances in the general election…
In this campaign, Romney pushed himself to the right, further than he needed to go. As Whitman learned and Romney should have realized, Latino voters matter.
Perhaps Romney will figure out a way to win some of that vote, maybe by picking a Latino or a Latina running mate.
But he better start shaking his campaign Etch A Sketch hard and hope that “friends” like [former Arizona state senator Russell] Pearce stop trying to help him, or he risks falling victim to the same malady that led to Whitman’s defeat.
Don’t count on that Latino/Latina running mate, either. Pilar Marrero today at Huffington Post eviscerates potential VP pick Marco Rubio as someone currently trying to deny DREAM Act students the same opportunities once had:
Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently floated the idea of a Dream Act that would give some kind of legal status to undocumented young college students but insisted that the way to do it would be to leave out a path to citizenship because it would “encourage chain migration”…
In other words, Rubio opposes offering the youngsters, many of whom are already graduate and post graduate students, the kind of status that would allow them to eventually sponsor immediate family members, much like Rubio’s parents in Cuba were sponsored by his auntie in Florida back in 1956, before Fidel Castro came to power…
But the Dream Act is supported by 90% of Latinos, even Republican Latinos. A good reason for Marco Rubio to find a way to make the Dream Act palatable to more people in his party.
And that’s the GOP problem with Latino voters in a nutshell: Republicans facing a serious voter deficit in key battleground states, yet plowing ahead with anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy that’s only bound to make them even less popular.