We have written at length about the political ineptitude of Mitt Romney’s decision to run to the hardline right on immigration – the largest single factor behind Romney’s historically low standing among Latino voters. Increasingly, prominent Republican figures are making similar assessments, recognizing that the GOP’s anti-immigration brand image will have to change if the Party is to adjust to the new demographic realities of national elections.
As Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman write in POLITICO today, if Romney loses, “Immigration was a fatal blunder” will be one of the top post-mortem explanations: “It’s been one of the most consistent — and for Republicans, alarming — features of 2012 polling: Romney is getting blown out with Latino voters. And he pretty much made his own bed with this powerful and growing demographic. As early as September 2011, when Romney was running to Rick Perry’s right on immigration — Romney’s most memorable line on the subject was that illegal immigrants should choose to “self-deport” to their native countries — Republicans privately fretted that Romney was digging himself a demographic hole. They were right: Romney’s likely to lose Latinos by a wider gap than McCain’s 36-point margin of defeat. That could push states like Nevada, Virginia, Florida and Colorado into Obama’s column, and if Obama wins just a few of those battlegrounds, it will be exceptionally difficult for Romney to win nationally. Should that scenario come to pass, Republican elites — who have long feared confinement to an aging and white voter base — will be ringing the alarm bells Wednesday morning.”
As the below voices make clear, some Republicans are already ringing the alarm bells:
- Newt Gingrich, former GOP Speaker and presidential candidate, told Jonathan Martin of POLITICO (referring to immigration reform): “Once we deal with the issue, we’ll have a permanent majority for a generation…But until we do, we’re permanently in danger of losing.”
- Terry Nelson, former field director of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, told National Journal: “The current coalition is hesitant to do the things we need to do. But the math is not going to add up in the future for us if we continue to be overly reliant on the votes of white voters. Certainly at the presidential level, sticking with this position [on immigration] will eventually put Republicans in a permanent minority position.”
- 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.”
- Todd Harris, Republican strategist to POLITICO: “Too many Republicans treat harsh immigration rhetoric the way a smoker treats cigarettes…You know it’s going to kill you, but you do it anyway.”
- Mike Murphy, Republican strategist said to Ron Brownstein of National Journal, “Too many of the party apparat and too many of the powerful subgroups are much more connected to nostalgia than they are to modern demographics. I hear people talking about [Ronald] Reagan all the time, which is wonderful. But sometimes I imagine they are competing in a America that demographically no longer exists… You’ve got to play on the other field or you can’t win…What we have to understand is, our field is shrinking and their field is growing. If we ignore it, I think it will be totally self-destructive. There will be a big fight in the party after the election between the mathematicians and the priests.”
- Steve Schmidt, former Bush and McCain campaign official and Republican strategist, said to National Journal, “Even [if] Romney does in fact get the white vote at the level [he needs]… and is able to win the presidency with that, he will be the last Republican candidate that will do that. The demographics of the country even four years from now will be such that that will be an impossibility.” Schmidt also told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s deeply worrying…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.”
America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.