Win in Puerto Rico GOP Primary of Limited Predictive Value for this November
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney used his resounding win in Puerto Rico’s Republican primary this weekend as evidence that he can actually compete for Latino voters this November. Unfortunately for Romney, his Puerto Rican primary win is of limited predictive value for potential general election performance among Latinos, for whom Romney’s “self deportation” immigration stance will remain a defining issue.
Said Romney after winning the primary, “Those people who don’t think that Latinos will vote for a Republican need to take a look in Puerto Rico…Hispanic voters are going to vote for Republicans if we stand for something: conservative principles that bring growth and good jobs and rising home values…I intend to become our nominee and I intend to get Latino voters to vote for a Republican.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Mitt Romney is living in an alternate reality. While it’s great that he finally recognizes the importance of Latino voters, it’s a leap in logic to think that his Puerto Rico primary win means that all the recent polls and analysts are wrong, and he will do well with this constituency in November. Without a major change of course in his immigration policy and rhetoric, Romney will remain out of touch and out of step with the vast majority of Latino voters throughout the nation.”
Undoubtedly aided by Rick Santorum’s decision to tell Puerto Rican voters that they should speak English if they want statehood, Romney won 83% of Republican voters in a territory where most citizens identify as Latino. What he fails to mention is that this is 83% of just 112,000 votes cast. Not to mention, 83% of an electorate comprised entirely of Republican primary voters – not nearly a representative sample of Latino voters this November. Contrast that to the 2 million voters who participated in the 2008 general election in Puerto Rico—and the fact that immigration will be a defining issue for Latino voters in the 2012 general election—and Romney’s argument looks embarrassingly desperate.
Recent polling of Latino voters nationwide shows that, despite Romney’s claims, he remains at risk to receive historically low levels of support for a major party nominee among Latino voters. For example, a recent Fox News Latino/Latin Insights poll of 1,200 likely Latino voters found, in the words of the accompanying poll recap from Fox News Latino, “that the overwhelming choice among likely Latino voters is President Obama. In head-to-head match-ups none of the GOP candidates would garner more than 14 percent of the Latino vote come November.” The same poll also demonstrated that immigration remains a defining, threshold issue for Latino voters, helping to shape their voting choices and views of candidates.
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