tags: , , Blog

In Run-up to 2016, Will GOP Hopefuls Try to Win Latino Voters, Or Suck Up to Steve King?

Share This:

The 2016 primaries are still over a year away, but you wouldn’t know it by the list of right-wing candidates flocking to Iowa this month for Steve King’s so-called “Freedom Summit.”

Iowans have the coveted role of casting the first votes toward selecting each major party’s presidential nominee, which earns the state unprecedented access to presidential hopefuls. In the 2012 cycle, the 11 major Republican candidates collectively spent more than 500 days in the state.

These Republican candidates know that they can’t win Iowa without Steve King — and that’s bad news if you’re the GOP.

History has shown that presidential candidates pander to their party’s extreme faction in order to win the nomination at their own detriment in the general election, such as when Mitt Romney vowed to veto the DREAM Act while visiting Steve King’s district on the eve of the last caucuses. The statement cemented Romney’s loss with Latinos – the only demographic in which Obama actually increased his support from 2008.

But this time around — in light of President Obama’s executive action on immigration and with the help of Steve King and his “Freedom Summit”  — Republicans won’t have to wait for the desperate last ditch anti-immigrant rhetoric like we saw with Mitt Romney.

Take Carly Fiorina for example. Fiorina is another Republican Presidential hopeful looking at a bid for the White House. The former CEO of Hewlett Packard lost her Senate challenge to Barbara Boxer in 2010, but is often cited as a possible Latina lifeline for Republicans.  Now Fiorina is also one of the Republicans trying to blame President Obama for the lack of immigration reform. Recently she said:

He sunk comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. He did nothing to push forward immigration reform when he had the Senate, the House and the White House. He said in ’11 and ’12 he couldn’t do anything. And then he delayed his action for the elections. Unbelievable cynicism.

Fiorina also does not support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already here and supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant state law SB 1070. With a record like that, it’s no wonder why she accepted the invitation to speak at Steve King’s event this month.

While Republicans like Carly Fiorina are following Steve King’s lead and gearing up to fight President Obama, the GOP’s true battles will be against Latino and immigrant families.  Those directly affected by executive action, as well as the much larger contingent of allied voters, are energized and ready to defend executive action against any Republican attempts to block or overturn this step forward for their lives, families, and communities.

There is of course another way. GOP Candidates can skip Iowa all together as some party leaders are suggesting. Late last year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made the case for a more centrist Republican Party, saying a nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

And Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona suggested presidential candidates might want to skip the state altogether. Flake said Iowa is “one of the very unfortunate parts of the presidential primary structure for Republicans. Often we spend so much time trying to win Iowa we can’t win the rest of the states.”

But whether they choose to associate with Steve King or not, during this election cycle every Republican candidate will be asked whether or not they will keep President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in place. And as we saw when the “moderate” Mitt Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act, you can’t answer that question and win the party’s nomination while wining enough Latino voters to take the White House.