The news that Mitt Romney is deploying automated attack calls in Iowa against Rick Perry on immigration should come as little surprise, given Romney’s hard-line stance on immigration thus far in the 2012 cycle. What is notable, however, is that the anti-Perry calls feature an Arizona sheriff named Paul Babeu, who makes the claim that “Rick Perry is part of the illegal immigration problem.”
Sheriff Babeu is the figure from John McCain’s infamous “Complete the Danged Fence” television ad, whose record and rhetoric mean that his credibility on immigration is approaching less than zero. Most notably, Sheriff Babeu is prominently identified with Arizona’s “papers, please” anti-immigrant law and continually touts himself as an expert on border security…despite having zero miles of the border under his jurisdiction. This development is another indication of how Romney’s approach on immigration in the primary campaign is destroying any potential competiveness with Latino voters in the general election.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Trotting out Paul Babeu as an attack dog on immigration may help Mitt Romney in hard-core conservative caucus precincts in Iowa, but it also will help destroy the Romney campaign with Hispanic voters in states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada in the process. In a potential general election matchup, Mitt Romney won’t be able to run away from his continued embrace of the leading lights and spokespeople of the anti-immigrant movement.
As a new Washington Post preview of the 2012 electoral map makes clear, at least four states with significant Hispanic electorates – Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico – are among the key battleground swing states that will decide who wins the presidency in 2012. Most experts are predicting that Republicans have to win 40% of the Latino vote to defeat Obama. Sheriff Babeu’s prominent association with the Romney campaign, following on the heels of recent endorsements of Romney from other anti-immigrant figures like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), will only entrench the problems the Republican Party has appealing to Latino voters, should Romney become the nominee.
Among Sheriff Babeu’s lowlights include an April 2010 appearance on Fox News, where he said that, “crime is literally off the charts here in Arizona. We have some of the highest crime statistics in America, with officers being assaulted, officer-involved shootings, carjackings, home invasions.” Actually, according to FBI crime statistics, at the time of Babeu’s appearance, crime was down in general across Arizona, including Babeu’s Pinal County. Babeu also is a strong advocate of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law – a toxic bill to many Latino voters and a piece of legislation that has enacted a massive economic toll on Arizona, as a July 2011 report from the Center for American Progress found.
For more information, see the America’s Voice report on the 2012 Republican field and immigration: Why Do Elephants Put their Heads in the Sand?