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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.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    “Perhaps calling them the Stupid Party is a good monicker after all.”
    —————————–

    Hard to disagree with that..

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Just give that Etch-a-Sketch a good shake…and it will all be better.
    In Iowa, back in January, vetoing the DREAM Act seemed like a good idea.
    Nationwide, this summer, we shall see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    True, it could be too late for the GOP and the Latino demographic. You have to give the media/Democrat cabal a lot credit, albeit in a Machiavellian sense.

    Democrats viciously can filibuster Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals and not even political junkies know anything about it. It simply doesn’t get reported. Except on a handful of conservative blogs, which nobody reads.

    Republicans can elect to major offices in swing states the likes of Mel Martinez, Brian Sandoval, Susana Martinez, David Rivera and Marco Rubio, but the general public and the Latino demographic at large both are insouciant. It’s the invisible caucus.

    Once identity politics sets in it becomes nearly impossible to reverse. The media/Democrat cabal is to identity politics what air is to breathing.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 20

  4. EMRVentures says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: So, a filibuster of a dishonest candidate for a circuit court judgeship eleven years ago should somehow be dispositive for the Hispanic in the 2012 elections? Is this your expert judgment as a labor lawyer, or as a petroleum futures trader?

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  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    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.

    Does anyone think this cockamamie idea is going to appeal to Hispanics. Enroll in the military or attend colllege but no citizenship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  6. EMRVentures says:

    “demographic” omitted above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: Ha! You beat me to it, dude! I was going to say, “Now this is where we get a list of Hispanic Republicans…” and you provide the list!

    Identity politics indeed….

    Bottom line is this…if the GOP wants to attract Hispanic voters, they’ll have to do more than advance a handful of Hispanic people to elected office. Maybe they could, I don’t know, address their concerns?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  8. Kylopod says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of it simply being too late. If the GOP were to shake its etch-a-sketch and start backing Bush-era reforms, then you might argue that it would be too late. But everyone knows they’re going to stick more or less to their reactionary and politically toxic positions–not just on immigration, but on Medicare, tax cuts on the rich, pre-existing conditions, Planned Parenthood, and so on–because the Republicans holding office live in fear of a Tea Party challenge. The problem isn’t that they’re too late, it’s that they’re going to be constrained by the far-right turn of their party for the foreseeable future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    Once identity politics sets in it becomes nearly impossible to reverse. The media/Democrat cabal is to identity politics what air is to breathing.

    Counsellor Nicko becomes more hilarious by the day. It’s Republican practice of identity politics on everything from contraception to immigration reform that accunts for the deep doo doo they find themselves in with hispanics and other minorities, women, gays and the young. Rove and co decided to build a party on the prejudices and irrationality of those like the Counsellor and they are reaping what they have sown. But go on convincing yourself Brewer and co are agents of the DNC. It raises a chuckle if nothing else Nicko.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. PJ says:

    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.

    You can die defending our country, values, and interests, but we won’t give you citizenship.

    Lovely.

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  11. The modiffication I would make to Rubio’s proposal would be that it doesn’t lead to immediate citizenship, but sets one on a path to citizenship in 5–7 years. Additionally, there would likely have to be some kind of limitation of the ability to sponsor anyone other than spouses and children for legal status for some period of time. Again, 5-7 years is a reasonable period of time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  12. Hey Norm says:

    “…they’ll have to do more than advance a handful of Hispanic people to elected office…”
    Especially when that handful is predominately Cuban’s…who only refer to themselves as Hispanic when it is politically useful.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  13. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: See PJ’s statement. There is no reason that a child brought here illegally, who has lived to all intents and purposes as a model “citizen” and is moving on to college or the military, should have to wait any additional years to get on the road to citizenship. And, since the Republican base seems to consist solely of religious nuts and crazy racists, there is no way it will accept any path to citizenship for illegals, even with your addition of a 5 – 7 year waiting period.

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  14. Rob in CT says:

    For a long time I didn’t really question the idea that “identity politics” was invented (at least in the US context) by the Left wing of American politics, and this was fairly recent (so, basically, the 1960s-era liberal Dems). I didn’t really think about it much.

    Actually paying attention to present-day politics + reading up on the antebellum era and the reconstruction era has convinced me that this is ridiculous. Identity politics goes waaaay back. The Know Nothings, for instance, were all about Protestant identity politics (OMG! The Catholics are coming!). Other groups (like the aforementioned Catholic immigrants) pretty much voted one way too. None of that was particularly Left Wing (the Dems of the 1840s were hardly a progressive party, and the Know Nothings aka annoyed Whigs were progressivish on only certain issues). Then you had the Civil War & reconstruction era. Plenty of identity politics there (The “Black Republican Party” etc). This continued right along to today.

    I doubt there ever was a time without identity politics. It’s just that for a long time, the only identity that mattered was White Male. Then all men, sorta, in some places (and only white men in lots of others, on a spectrum that didn’t really get to real equality at the “good” end). Then all Whites (the definition which shifts over time), plus sorta kinda some non-whites. Then, finally, non-white people really counted too and boy oh boy does THAT suck, amirite?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  15. @Nikki:

    I was referring more to the people who actually came here illegally by their own choice, or who came here on tourist or other visas and failed to leave when those visas expired. not their children. There’s no reason those people should get a place at the front of the line

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I thought the DREAM act was aimed primarily at the children brought here illegally and they are to whom Sen. Rubio’s bill would also primarily be aimed. Am I wrong?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. James in LA says:

    Most pols in power are well over 50, and still operate in the Age of Paper. It is going to bury Romney, shovel by YouTube. It simply cannot occur to them that they can no longer white lie their way across the country, and no one will pick it up. This whole campaign has been the horrible outtakes from “Kids Say The Darndest Things.” It does not occur to George Allen that his defeat by this new medium was permanent. Marco Rubio is not the patron saint of nothing in particular, and a case could be made he himself is one of these dreaded “anchor babies.”

    Obama will win handily. The GOP will be fretting over places like Georgia before the night ends.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  18. J-Dub says:

    The Republicans seem to offer no immigration policy other than “send them all home” or Romney’s version, “self-deportation”, where we make life so miserable for them that they won’t want to stay here. It’s no wonder they garner no support among Hispanics when they are unwilling to even talk about a path to citizenship. I give Bush credit for at least trying to pass immigration reform, before he was smacked down by his fellow Republicans in Congress.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  19. An Interested Party says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: Sorry sweetie, but Republicans have done this to themselves, no need to blame the phony MSM cabal…oh, and once again, tokens aren’t going to help any political party…a party’s words and actions are going to carry far more weight…for someone who presents himself as being so intelligent and so deep, you often give a rather shallow analysis…

    By the way, does anyone really believe that Rubio’s watered-down drivel will get anywhere in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives? He and his weak sauce won’t do much to help the GOP with Hispanics…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  20. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Nikki: You are correct. The DREAM Act applies specifically to people who were brought in illegally while they were underage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  21. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    Once identity politics sets in it becomes nearly impossible to reverse.

    You got that right, and nobody practices identity politics with the fervor of the Republican party. In that case, White, Christian, Rural identity politics. All others need not apply.

    Which is why, in the long run, the GOP is the Loser’s Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Nikki:

    I thought the DREAM act was aimed primarily at the children brought here illegally and they are to whom Sen. Rubio’s bill would also primarily be aimed. Am I wrong?

    You are not wrong. Rubio has floated this cockamamie idea as a means of maintaining his cred with the wider hispanic community while not bunring his boats with the Republican base but five minutes examination reveal it’s not going to have any appeal to hispanics relative to the dream act. The Republicans fundamental problem given their base is they simply cannot outbid the democrats with hispanics. The damage is done. Absent a conversion on the road to Damascus by the Brewers of this world the Republicans have lost hispanics for at least a generation. In that FOX poll Romney got 14% of hispanics. It might narrow marginally but they are effectively gone for November.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  23. sam says:

    Oh, and Czar Nick, two words are all you need to know to figure out why La Bamba won’t soon be played at any Republican function: ‘Joe’ and ‘Arpaio’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. LaurenceB says:

    As someone who spends some time interacting with U.S. Hispanics on a social level, my general impression is that many if not most Hispanics have friends or relatives who have been illegal or who are currently illegal. I certainly know quite a few.

    And it’s basic human nature that these personal relationships humanize your view of what an “illegal” is. And once you’re in that mindset it becomes deeply repulsive to see Herman Cain joking (or not joking) about electrocuting people, and the other candidates and the debate audience laughing along.

    So, it’s no surprise at all to me that there are fewer and fewer Hispanic Republicans. I would be flabbergasted if that weren’t the case.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  25. al-Ameda says:

    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.

    Really clumsy and tone deaf. This seems analogous to Republicans figuring that they would win the Women’s vote by putting Sarah Palin on the Ticket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  26. An Interested Party says:

    It’s rather amusing that Republicans would try to mend these kind of fences as they have been trying to build other ones for some time…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    @An Interested Party:

    It’s rather amusing that Republicans would try to mend these kind of fences as they have been trying to build other ones for some time…

    Yes a rather unfortunate choice of metaphor by Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  28. deathcar2000 says:

    The “Hispanic” community is not monolithic!!! Cubans do not vote like Dominicans who have a completly different culture than Mexicans who arent any thing at all like Columbians.

    Currently married to a second gen cuban. Was married to a Mariel Boat refugee (sorry i know they dont like being called a refugee). My ex wife married a Guy from South America. So I have a little inside baseball understanding on how they and their folks feel about this and it aint good for the GOP.

    2nd and 3rd generation Cubans are staring to make the move to the Dems in ever greater numbers. Mexican Americans have been lost for a very long time. So the GOP needs to hurry up and stop being dicks to people who look different than them if the want to compete nationaly in the future.

    or not….whatever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  29. FedSec says:

    @deathcar2000: As long as white men continue to head the GOP, they will continue to advocate for legislation that keeps the rest of us in the ghetton, on the farm, in the kitchen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. An Interested Party says:

    So the GOP needs to hurry up and stop being dicks to people who look different than them…

    They can’t do that as it would anger their base…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. superdestroyer says:

    @J-Dub:

    Why would the more conservative party want to make millions of Hispanic citizens when most of those new Hispanic citizens will be poor, live in largely Hispanic neighborhoods, and be automatic Democratic Party voters.

    Why should the Republicans want to turn the rest of the U.S. into something that resembles the current state of Los Angeles. Middle class and upper middle class whites are going broke trying not to live next to poor people. How does increasing the number of poor people help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  32. An Interested Party says:

    Why would the more conservative party want to make millions of Hispanic citizens when most of those new Hispanic citizens will be poor, live in largely Hispanic neighborhoods, and be automatic Democratic Party voters.

    I see…so all illegal immigrants are poor people who have no chance of bettering their lives and moving into a higher socio-economic status?

    Middle class and upper middle class whites are going broke trying not to live next to poor people.

    Projecting yet again, I see…the person who is trying desperately to get away from all the black and brown people is you…by the way, keep up the good work, as you are a prime example of why Republicans will never garner any significant portion of the Hispanic vote as long as they spew racist, stereotypical froth…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. KariQ says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Absent a conversion on the road to Damascus by the Brewers of this world the Republicans have lost hispanics for at least a generation.

    As a Californian, this whole thing has been like deja vu.

    Most people forget this now, but California used to be a swing state. From Eisenhower through Bush I, the only time California went for the Democratic candidate was 1968 when Johnson swept the country. Ike, Nixon, Ford, Reagen, and H.W. Bush in 1988 all carried California. It didn’t hurt that Nixon and Reagen were Californians, of course, but Republicans ran very competitively in California. On a statewide level, the parties were closely balanced, with each party winning the governor race about half the time.

    The Hispanic population of the state was not overwhelmingly Democratic then, as it is now. They were actually trending toward the GOP.

    Then prop 187 happened. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_187_(1994)

    Virtually the entire Hispanic population turned against the Republican party, and the state GOP is nearly totally irrelevant.

    And now, it’s going national. The exact same thing is happening in states all over the country. I’d say I’m surprised that the GOP didn’t learn anything from what happened in California, but the truth is that the California GOP didn’t learn anything from it. Given the opportunity, they’d do it all over again; they are still pounding the table over immigration issues. And they keep losing voters and they keep losing elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  34. Todd says:

    I am truly surprised at all the rhetoric on this blog regarding immigration. If you came from outer space and this is all you read, you would think the USA has no immigration policy or law indication how one should enter this country. You would probably think, by reading these comments, that as a nation we just have a difference of opinion between libs and consv. regarding immigrants. Our nation is divided right now over the Trayvon Martin case, primarily over why the law is not being applied evenly to Zimmerman as it would if the shooter would have been black. Many on the left want existing law to be used to arrest Zimmerman, yet don’t want the existing law to be used when it’s about illegal immigration. Hard to understand. I am hispanic and white, my father being from Puerto Rico. But as it is that makes me 100% American. Yet anyone here from another country with legal status is also 100% American. There are two ways to be a citizen, born here or US territory, or go through the process and apply for legal status, like all other sovereign nations do. Folks, are we a nation of laws or not? The Repub have not been able to clearly express there viewpoint, but I would challenge that most illegal immigrants come here escaping corrupt politics in their nation, class warfare, lack of employment opportunities, crime, violent drug cartels, etc… Why come to this nation and then live under a country run by politicians who’ve been sworn to uphold the constitiution yet don’t. Most hispanics I know are conservative in their private lives, believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, love their children dearly, wanting the best education possible, they believe in entrepeneurship, and have a tremendous work ethic, often sacrificing their own personal comfort so their family can live a better life. They are also lovers of the military and understand the importance of personal sacrifice for the good of a country and they believe in laws. Seems to me they should overwhelmingly vote conservative. In fact most hispanics I know would truly believe in the Tea Party movement if it weren’t so “white” as the media plays it. I would challenge all hispanics to ask yourselves why you overwhelmingly support the Dems. If the only reason is immigration, ask yourself what would you like instead of the current law/ Do you want open borders? Do you want anyone to come in no questions asked. Do you want everyone to enter and share in the blessings this country offers? Then also ask yourself, why are people leaving their country to another? What is so bad in their country that you must risk life and law? Why not put all your efforts, your treasure, and your life to make your country better? Do you want a government that caters to individual groups or a country that treats all citizens equally, without looking at the color of their skin?

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  35. Liberty60 says:

    which would allow people brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status, but not citizenship

    What legal status would that be?

    3/5 of a citizen?

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  36. anjin-san says:

    believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, love their children dearly, wanting the best education possible, they believe in entrepeneurship, and have a tremendous work ethic, often sacrificing their own personal comfort so their family can live a better life. They are also lovers of the military and understand the importance of personal sacrifice for the good of a country and they believe in laws

    Funny, most of the Democrats I know feel pretty much the same way. Equal marriage rights for gays in no way detracts from the sanctity of a marriage between a man and a woman. And while I don’t know if I would say the Democrats I know “love” the military, they certainly strong supporters.

    You implication that liberals do not support these core American values is nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0