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The gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia offer two different models for the national Republican Party on immigration reform and outreach to Latino voters. Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) is pro-immigrant and doing well. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) is anti-immigrant and heading towards defeat. The results should speak loudly to a Republican Party that is deciding whether to embrace or reject immigration reform this year, and contemplating its chances in 2014 and 2016.
See below for a snapshot of Chris Christie and Ken Cuccinelli on immigration reform and Latino voter outreach:
Chris Christie: Pro-Immigration Reform with Dedicated Latino Outreach Strategy
Ken Cuccinelli: Driving Away Latino Voters with a Hard-line Immigration Stance
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The contrast is stark. Chris Christie is drawing on the tradition of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush by reaching out to Latino voters and supporting positive immigration reforms. He is on his way to winning a stunning victory in a blue state, which could catapult him to the front of the pack for the 2016 presidential race. Ken Cuccinelli is drawing on the tradition of Mitt Romney, Pat Buchanan and Steve King by alienating Latino voters with harsh anti-immigrant stances and statements. He is on his way to a historic defeat.
A word of caution is in order for Governor Christie and the GOP, however. As Senator John McCain found out in 2008, having a good individual record on immigration cannot overcome the damage done by a tarnished Republican brand that is associated with hostility toward Latinos and opposition to immigration reform. Speaker of the House John Boehner, along with a couple of influential Virginians – Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – should take heed. How they handle immigration reform in the coming weeks and will not only influence the party’s prospects in 2014, it may well determine whether the eventual 2016 GOP presidential nominee, no matter who it is, will be able to compete seriously for Latino voters.
Tomorrow, Latino Decisions, America’s Voice and People For the American Way (PFAW) will release a new election-eve poll of Virginia Latino and Asian voters, assessing attitudes about the current immigration debate and how both candidates’ positioning on this issue have impacted these voters’ political decisions. Starting tomorrow, data on voters’ attitudes on key immigration policy issues will be released on a rolling basis. Latino Decisions, PFAW, and America’s Voice will first release the issue questions from this poll of 400 Asian and 400 Latino “extremely likely” voters in Virginia. Candidate selection data will also be available to reporters under embargo until 7pm Eastern if requested (please email email@example.com to receive embargoed data). The data will then be made public as the polls close in Virginia that night. On Wednesday, November 6th at 12pm ET, pollsters, civic engagement leaders and immigration experts will then analyze the full results on a press call/webinar (dial-in and webinar instructions available HERE).