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Wall Street Journal: "Election May Hinge on Latino Turnout"

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The Wall Street Journal today published a front-page story titled “Election May Hinge on Latino Turnout.”  Reporters Peter Nicholas and Colleen McCain assert that, should President Obama win re-election, Latino voters could end up being decisive.

In exploring what motivates and influences Latino voters, the Journal article joins an array of voices making the case that Mitt Romney’s decision to tack hard to the right on immigration during the primaries – which largely mirrors the rightward lurch on immigration issues by the Republican Party as a whole – is the key factor driving Latino voters toward the Democrats.  Further, should Republicans lose the presidency as a result, the writing will be on the wall: GOP opposition to common sense immigration reform could put the Republican Party’s future as a national party in jeopardy.

Below are key excerpts from the Journal piece. The article first addresses the importance of Latino voters in 2012:

“In a presidential contest still up for grabs, Barack Obama’s re-election hopes hinge more than any previous presidential contender on the Latino vote…

…Even some Republicans worry that the party is alienating Latino voters in ways that could jeopardize future national elections. Steve Schmidt was a senior strategist in Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.  In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Schmidt voiced regret over what he described as a ‘collapse of support for Republican candidates by the fastest-growing demographic group in the country.’”

‘It’s deeply worrying,’ Mr. Schmidt added.  ‘Eight years ago we were having conversations about getting 50% of the Hispanic vote.  Eight years later we’re worried about whether we’re going to get 30% nationally.’”

It goes on to explore the role immigration plays in the collapse of Latino support for Republicans:

“Many Hispanic voters say their views on Mr. Romney were shaped during the Republican primaries, when he took a hard line on immigration issues, vowing to veto the Dream Act and offering support for ‘self-deportation.’  More recently, Mr. Romney has softened his rhetoric, as he has emphasized bipartisan solutions and has pledged to deliver a long-term fix for immigration policy.  But the Republican nominee’s earlier statements were a cause for concern, many Hispanic leaders have said, and the Obama campaign has been quick to remind voters of Mr. Romney’s tough talk.

[Pollster Peter] Hart said the promises Mr. Romney made during the primaries could prove consequential.

‘If Romney loses, he’ll look back on two or three major decisions that he made in the campaign, and one of them will clearly be the decision to go to the right of [Texas Gov.] Rick Perry on the immigration issue,’ he said. ‘That was as central as they come.’”

The Journal article is just the latest to lift up the interplay among the growing power of Latino voters; Republican immigration positioning; and the GOP’s need to finally read the demographic writing on the wall and come to the table on behalf of immigration reform.  Other notable observers making similar cases include:

  • Ronald Brownstein of National Journal noted in a column titled “His Original Sin,” “Of all Romney’s primary-season decisions, the most damaging was his choice to repel the challenges from Perry and Gingrich by attacking them from the right—and using immigration as his cudgel.  That process led Romney to embrace a succession of edgy, conservative positions anathema to many Hispanics.” Brownstein also noted, in a separate column, “Republican strategists clearly feel the weight of trying to assemble a national majority with so little support among minorities that they must win three in five whites.  ‘This is the last time anyone will try to do this,’ one said.  A GOP coalition that relies almost entirely on whites could squeeze out one more narrow victory in November.  But if Republicans can’t find more effective ways to bridge the priorities of their conservative core and the diversifying Next America, that weight will grow more daunting every year.”
  • Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly writes, “If Mitt Romney loses, and if Republicans fail to take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to take control of the Senate, there will be a lot of justifiable talk about the decision of the GOP and its presidential candidate to subordinate efforts to appeal to Latino voters to its recent nativist bender.”
  • Jorge Ramos, Univisión anchor, wrote  in a letter to Republicans before the Republican National Convention (translated by America’s Voice), “Dear Republicans: You will lose the Hispanic vote in the next presidential election.  President Barack Obama will receive millions more Latino votes than your candidate Mitt Romney.  But that’s not the worst part. I’m writing to let you know that unless you change your anti-immigrant positions, you might be sentenced to losing the White House for several decades…Your dilemma will be what to do in order not to lose Hispanic support for generations to come.”
  • E.J. Dionne, syndicated Washington Post columnist and pundit, stated in a recent column, “The president has also been clear that he wants to take on immigration reform.  The question always asked is: Why should we think he’ll do it in a second term when he didn’t do it in the first?  The answer is that if Obama is reelected, it will be in no small part because he overwhelms Romney among Latino voters who have stoutly rejected the Republican’s ‘self-deportation’ ideas.  It’s possible that Republicans will cooperate on immigration reform simply because they don’t want to keep losing elections by getting clobbered in Latino precincts.  And Obama will know that he has an electoral debt to pay.”
  • Mark McKinnon, former aide to President George W. Bush, told The Hill, “”If Republicans lose, it will be part for a failure to attract Hispanic votes…And a positive outcome would be a likely softening on immigration reform.”
  • And finally, President Obama himself, in the fabled off-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register, stated, “The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.”