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Steve King and the “Spell” Cast from the 2012 Elections

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chicago-2Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tells CNN this morning, “Last year, almost everybody in my conference would have agreed with me on this immigration issue…This year it seems after the presidential election a spell has been cast over a good number of Republicans and they seem to think the presidential election was about immigration.  I’d ask them: find me that debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama that addressed immigration.  I don’t remember it, I can’t find it.”

Congressman King, here’s the link to the debate on immigration reform between President Obama and Governor Romney.  It happened during the New York debate, and it goes on for almost 9 minutes.  Mitt Romney admits he’s for self-deportation, Obama touts DACA, his executive action to provide relief for DREAMers and a clear distinction was made for voters.

Here’s a refresher for Steve King regarding immigration’s defining role in the 2012 cycle:

  • President Obama Crushed Mitt Romney among Latino Voters Nationwide and In Each of the 11 Battleground States Polled: According to an election eve poll of 5,600 Latino voters conducted by Latino Decisions, Obama won Latino voters’ support over Mitt Romney by historic margins – a whopping 75%-23% margin nationwide (exit polling, which has a poorer track record in capturing the Latino vote, had Obama defeating Romney by 77%-27%).  In Colorado, Obama won Latino voters by a massive 87%-10% margin; in New Mexico, by a 77%-21% margin; in Nevada, by an 80%-17% margin; in Ohio, by an 82%-17% margin; and in Virginia, by a 66%-31% margin. Even Florida’s traditionally more conservative Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by a 58%-40% margin.
  • Mitt Romney’s Hardline Immigration Stances Hurt Him Among Latino Voters: Romney’s support for hardline policies, including self-deportation and a promise to end the DREAMer deferred action program, made 57% of Latino voters nationwide “less enthusiastic” about supporting Romney, while only 7% of Latinos said it made them “more enthusiastic” about Romney’s candidacy (27% said it “had no effect” on their level of support).  Of note, “less enthusiastic” responses were particularly high in Colorado (68%), Ohio (62%) and Nevada (61%) – three states that voted against Romney.  In fact, Romney’s run to the hardline right on immigration during the GOP primaries was unnecessary, as Republican primary and caucus-goers are actually more pragmatic than hardline on immigration.  As National Journal’s Ron Brownstein assessed, “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.”
  • On its One-Year Anniversary, Let’s Remember the Political Importance of DACA: Prior to President Obama’s June 2012 announcement of DACA – which went into effect one year ago – Latino voter enthusiasm for the President was low, in part due to record deportations and lack of progress on immigration reform as promised.    But the DREAMer relief decision made 58% of Latino voters nationwide “more enthusiastic” about President Obama vs. only 6% who said “less enthusiastic.”  This enthusiasm was particularly high in some of the key battleground states that tipped President Obama’s way in large part because of overwhelming support from Latinos. In fact, last August, one member of the President’s campaign brain-trust pointed to the deferred action program announcement as the turning point in the overall 2012 presidential election.
  • Immigration a Personal and Defining Issue for Latino Voters: Why do Latino voters who are citizens care so much Latino immigrants who are undocumented?  Election eve polling found that 60% of Latino voters nationwide “know somebody who is an undocumented immigrant.”  Immigration reform ranked second behind the economy/jobs on the “most important issue” question.  The foreign-born subset of Latino voters – a group with direct personal experience with immigration policy – was more likely to rank immigration as the number one issue leaders should address (39%), preferred Obama over Romney by an 80%-18% margin and was more likely to know an undocumented immigrant (66%).
  • The GOP Can Recover If they Lead and Share Credit on Immigration Reform: The Election Eve poll also found that nearly one-in-three Latino voters would be “more likely to vote Republican” if the GOP “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”  Of note, one-in-five Latinos who voted for President Obama in 2012 (19.8%) said that they would be open to voting for Republicans if the Party came to the table on immigration.  Combining this subset of Obama voters with the 23% of Latinos who voted for Mitt Romney, a pro-immigration reform Republican Party would be in the mix to achieve the 40% threshold of Latino support that George W. Bush received in 2004.
  • Speaker Boehner & Others Immediately Grasped Immigration’s Importance After the 2012 Election: In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 election, a remarkable number of conservatives and Republicans grasped the importance of immigration and Latino voters to the outcome of the presidential race as well as the issue’s role in shaping the demographic composition and voting patterns of the electorate.  Among them was Steve King’s leader: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said to ABC News regarding immigration reform and in light of the 2012 elections, “This issue has been around far too long…A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all in their vocal support of immigration reform with citizenship in the immediate afterglow of the election.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

It’s been one year since the Obama Administration implemented relief for the DREAMers.  This decision served as a turning point in the presidential race and in the immigration debate.  Its’ not a surprise that Steve King missed its importance.  But it is a surprise that Speaker Boehner and his fellow Republican House leaders have yet to act.  In fact, the only major vote on immigration policy in the House of Representatives this year has been on an amendment sponsored by Steve King that would defund the Deferred Action program and subject DREAMers to deportation.  And yet, right now there’s a bipartisan majority in the House that supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Mr. Speaker, the choice is clear.  Save the GOP from the likes of Steve King, rehabilitate your party’s standing with Latino voters and do the right thing for the country.