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Bloggers Agree: Mitt Romney, GOP Candidates Ignore Latino Vote at Their Peril

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republican debateRemember Wednesday night’s GOP debate in Mesa, Arizona, where the Republican candidates proclaimed that Arizona and its extremist SB 1070 anti-immigrant law was a model for the country?  We said that “modeling America’s immigration policy on the failed experiment in Arizona is a guaranteed pathway to failure for the GOP… As Republican candidates continue to shove their hand in the face of Latino voters, they can kiss their chances of winning the general election goodbye.”  And it looks like commentators from across the blogosphere agree: the GOP is basically doing its best to repudiate any Hispanic interest in voting Republican, and the Mesa debate is only one more example in a long line of these examples.

From Adam Serwer at Mother Jones yesterday:

By endorsing the Arizona law, Romney and Santorum are making their clearest and most concise statements yet about the immigration policies they would pursue as president. Romney has been on all sides of the immigration debate in the past, first positioning himself as a Bush-like moderate, then running to John McCain’s right during the 2008 primary. This time around, his campaign has made a point of touting the endorsements anti-immigrant hardliners like Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has helped write Arizona-style laws all over the country, and Pete Wilson, the former governor of California. Wilson supported California’s Prop 187, which prohibited undocumented immigrants in the state from using any public services, was later struck down as unconstitutional, and produced a backlash that is credited with helping Democrats win nearly every statewide election contest since. By tossing out concepts like “self-deportation,” Romney has made his support for harsh anti-illegal immigration laws clear.

Greg Sargent at the Plum Line notes that the candidates’ extremism on immigration has GOP operatives who know something about electoral politics very, very worried:

More broadly, yesterday’s moment crystallizes a broader set of rising concerns among Republican operatives. They worry that the GOP primary is forcing the candidates to take a tone that’s compromising efforts to rebrand the party as forward looking and inclusive. Even before yesterday’s debate, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warned against coming across as the “anti-immigrant” party, arguing: “We need to be more articulate in voicing the aspirational spirit of America.” And so moment’s like yesterday’s could help damage the GOP in ways that impact November.

And you can be sure that the candidates’ positions will affect how well they do with the Latino vote, and consequently with the overall race, in November.  There are quite a few key battleground states with a sizeable Hispanic voting population.  Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow’s blog notes:

If it were just one area of immigration policy in which Romney moved to the far-right edge of his party, it might be a little easier for him to appear more sensible when he reinvents himself again and starts making appeals for general-election votes. But it’s actually every meaningful area of the debate that’s proving to be problematic — Romney is an inflexible opponent of the DREAM Act; he’s palling around with Pete Wilson and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; he endorses a “self-deportation” agenda; he’s critical of bilingualism; and his casual dismissals of “amnesty” and “illegals” are a staple of his campaign rhetoric.

Romney, by any reasonable measure, is the most right-wing candidate on immigration of any competitive presidential hopeful in generations.

Lionel Sosa, a Texas strategist who advised George W. Bush and John McCain on appealing to Latino voters, recently told the New York Times, “[Romney] can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote. He’s not going to gain it again.”

Finally, Markos at Daily Kos reminds us that President Obama hasn’t been stellar on immigration, either.  The GOP had a real opening with Latino voters.  But they’ve been doing their very, very best to throw it away:  

Latinos may not be enamored with Obama, but there’s no opening for Republicans. It’s no different than the way many of us feel about the president—we think he could be doing better, but we’re not about to vote Republican as a result.  And why would they?

Obama will win 70 percent, if not more, of the Latino vote. McCain at least had some residual good will because of historical efforts to address immigration reform (which he dropped during the campaign, but like I said, “residual”). Neither Romney nor Santorum get those benefits of the doubt, and their rhetoric is far more overtly hostile and extreme than McCain’s ever was.

Know what Obama winning 70% of the Latino vote means?  That the Republican nominee will not be able to win the 40% of the Latino vote he is estimated to need to win the White House.

Dana Milbank said it best last week in his now-infamous Washington Post column: “When it comes to Latino voters, Republicans must have un impulso suicida.”