tags: Press Releases

GOP Candidates Stuck Between Immigration Rock and Hard Place

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Angle, Rubio, Whitman Show that Outreach to Key Latino Voter Population Often Conflicts with Appeals to Base

Washington, DC – Recent developments in three high-profile 2010 races highlight the dynamics at play for Republican candidates on immigration, who play to an anti-immigrant faction of the base during the primaries and struggle to change gears to compete for Latino voters in the general election.

“After vicious primary battles on immigration, there’s really no place to go for GOP candidates when it comes to immigration and Latino outreach,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.  “In high-profile California, Nevada, and Florida races, Republican candidates who tack hard right during the primaries are struggling to compete for Latino votes in the general election.  We’re seeing a lot of muddled messages, outright hypocrisy, and appeals that differ depending on the audience and the language.  But Latino voters will not view this kindly.  Until Republican politicians find a way to be for Latino voters during the primary and the general election, the GOP will struggle to compete in a growing number of races where Latino voters matter.”

  • Meg Whitman on Comprehensive Immigration Reform – What a Difference a Year Makes: Last October, standing near the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego, Meg Whitman voiced her support for comprehensive immigration reform, saying, “Can we get a fair program where people stand at the back of the line, they pay a fine, they do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization?”  Then, during a bruising primary campaign against Steve Poizner, she pivoted to the right on immigration to appeal to the Republican base.  Heading into the general election, Whitman appeared to be making a play for Latino voters – and making progress with them – by sponsoring a series of Spanish-language ads and billboards highlighting her opposition to Arizona’s ‘papers please’ SB1070 law and California’s notorious 1994 anti-immigrant ballot initiative Proposition 187.  New Los Angeles Times polling found that Latinos favor Democratic nominee Jerry Brown by a 19-point margin over Whitman, a much tighter margin than the Carly Fiorina-Barbara Boxer Senate race (in which Fiorina has done much less to moderate her tone).  But Whitman is unable to shed the ghosts of her primary past, and stayed right during last night’s high-stakes debate by reiterating her opposition to offering a “path to legalization” for the undocumented.  So much for being a different kind of Republican.  She may have just kissed her chances – along with $120 million of her fortune – goodbye.
  • Marco Rubio – ¿Cómo Se Dice “English-Only” in Spanish?: In Florida, Republican Senate nominee Marco Rubio is up with his first Spanish-language television ad of the campaign – despite the candidate’s consistent advocacy for “English-only” policies.  Rubio’s ad focuses entirely on his Cuban-American background and ignores thorny policy issues like his opposition to the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill and his flip-flopping over the Arizona immigration law.  Rubio is clearly hoping that his background and biography appeal to Latino voters who might otherwise be turned off by his hard-line stances on immigration.
  • Sharron Angle Spokeswoman Speaks the Truth:  Yesterday, Tibi Ellis, a spokeswoman for Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle, condemned her own candidate’s recent ad that attacked Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for being “the best friend an illegal alien ever had.”  Ellis, who is also chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Hispanic Caucus, announced her opposition to “this type of propaganda, no matter who is running them, where they blame Mexicans as the only problem and where they attack them as the only source of illegal immigration.”  We are guessing that this isn’t the sort of outreach to Latino voters the Angle campaign was envisioning when it responded to accusations that the candidate was refusing to talk to the Spanish-language press.

Read more about Latino voters, who make up over 21% of California’s electorate, 13% of Florida’s electorate, and over 12% of Nevada’s electorate, in America’s Voice’s report “The Power of the Latino Vote in America.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform