Republicans Trying To Mend Fences With Hispanic Voters, But It May Be Too Late
In addition to the problems with female voters that James Joyner makes note of this morning, the Republican Party also faces going into the 2012 General Election with a serious problem attracting Hispanic voters. As I noted last month, a recent Fox News Latino poll showed all four Republican candidates getting no more than 14% of the Hispanic vote in head-to-head match-ups with President Obama. That’s less than half of the roughly one-third that John McCain got in 2008, and far less than the percentage of the Hispanic vote that George W Bush garnered in 2004. It’s not like they haven’t been warned about this. After several years of hard anti-immigration rhetoric and policies that included blocking the DREAM Act (which is widely supported in the Hispanic community) and supporting restrictive laws in states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, have created precisely the situation that Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been warning about.
Now, it seems, Republicans are starting to realize they need to do something about the decline in Hispanic support, and it’s going to have to be more than just putting a Hispanic on the ticket:
Congressional Republicans and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign are working to fashion proposals that could make up ground with Hispanic voters, concerned rhetoric on immigration from many in the party is turning away the increasingly powerful constituency.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is developing a scaled-back version of the Dream Act, which would allow people brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status, but not citizenship, if they enroll in college or the military. Several Senate Republicans have signed on to bipartisan legislation aimed at broadening access to the legal immigrant visa system.
The Romney campaign is looking for new proposals that would show he backs legal immigration, trying to pivot from a primary campaign in which he has taken a tough line on assistance to those here illegally.
It’s unclear whether any of these initiatives will bear fruit, but there is an increasing sense among some in the party of the need to try.
This effort is taking on new importance as an increasing number of Republicans signal it is time to end the primary fight and begin positioning the party for the general election. How close it is to wrapping up the primary contest may become more clear Tuesday night, when Mr. Romney looks for victory in the battleground state of Wisconsin, as well as in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Immigration policy is just one part of winning over Hispanic voters, who made up about 9% of voters in the 2008 presidential race and are important to both parties. Many Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), argue that if the party could get past the immigration issue, it would be the natural home for many more Latino voters, who are often socially conservative and value entrepreneurship.
It’s not an impossible dream for the GOP, actually. President Obama’s job approval among Hispanics has declined sharply from the heady days of the 2008 election. In part, this is because of Obama’s failure to deliver on promises of immigration reform, or to even make it a serious part of his first term agenda at any time. In part, it’s also the fact that deportations are actually on a faster pace under Obama than they were under his predecessor. That’s not sending Hispanics in to the arms of the GOP, though, mostly because of the aforementioned problems with the GOP immigration agenda, but also because the Republican candidates for President have done nothing to court Hispanic voters, instead choosing to court support from the people who backed those controversial immigration bills that are in part the source of their problems with Hispanic voters. So the situation that we see in the polling is that Hispanic voters are backing Obama not so much because they support him, but because they find him far better on the issues that they care about than the Republicans.
The past year of campaigning by the Republican candidates for President can’t have done anything to console Hispanics concerned about the GOP. For the most part, all of the candidates have competed with each other to see which one could be more anti-immigration (or as they continually insist, anti illegal immigration), which one could make the most bizarre proposal about how to secure the border, and which one could be the most dismissive of the complications surrounding any consideration of illegal immigration that goes beyond “Deport Them All!.” The one candidate who was perhaps the most moderate on the issue of immigration, Texas Governor Rick Perry, ended up getting savaged by his opponents. It’s going to be next to impossible for the GOP to erase those memories, or the legacy of the Arizona-style immigration laws, from the minds of voters.
So, the GOP heads into the 2012 election with problems with 50% of the voting population and the nation’s fastest growing minority group, and it’s largely because of the policies they’ve endorsed and the rhetoric they’ve used on the campaign trail. Perhaps calling them the Stupid Party is a good monicker after all.