Romney Trailing Obama Among Hispanics By Wide Margin
The GOP has a serious problem with the Latino vote, and it may too late to fix it.
It’s been rather evident for quite some time now that the GOP has a huge problem with Hispanic voters, and it has only gotten worse as the party has continued to emphasize a hard-line stance on immigration enforcement, opposition to legislation like the DREAM Act, and support for the restrictive laws enacted by states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia. You really only have to look at the numbers to see the problem. In 2000, George W. Bush managed to garner 38% of the Latino vote. In 2004, he increased that margin to 44%, among the highest percentage any Republican Presidential candidate has gotten since the Latino vote started to become a major factor in elections. By 2008, though, there were signs of increasing dissatisfaction with the GOP when John McCain, who had generally been very much in favor off immigration reform prior to his Presidential run, garnered just 31% of the Latino vote. In March, eyebrows were raised when a Fox News Latino poll showed a Republican candidate getting only 14% of the Latino vote against President Obama. Now, we have a now poll from NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and Univision showing that Mitt Romney is trailing Barack Obama among Latino voters by an astounding thirty-four point margin:
Less than six months before November’s presidential election, President Obama enjoys a sizable lead over Mitt Romney among Latino voters, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll of Latino respondents.
The challenge for the Obama campaign, however, will be turning out these voters, who aren’t as interested in the election as all other Americans are.
In this survey, Obama holds a 34-point lead over Romney among registered Latino voters, 61 to 27 percent. In 2008, according to the exit polls, Obama defeated McCain among this key voting bloc, 67 to 31 percent.
In addition, Obama’s approval rating among all Latino adults stands at 61 percent (compared with 48 percent of all Americans in the new NBC/WSJ poll), and approval of his handling of the economy is at 54 percent (versus 43 percent overall).
Meanwhile, Romney is struggling with Latinos, the poll shows. Just 26 percent view him positively, while 35 percent see him in a negative light. By comparison, Obama’s positive/negative score among Latinos is 58/23 percent.
What’s more, this demographic group is more optimistic about the economy and the nation’s direction than the general population. Forty percent of Latinos believe the country is headed in the right direction (versus 33 percent of all Americans in the NBC/WSJ poll), and 46 percent of them say what they’ve read and heard recently makes them feel more optimistic about the economy (versus 42 percent).
All of this is good news for Obama, and rather bad news for Romney, for obvious reasons. Although the Latino population is still a relatively small portion of the voting population as a whole, in 2008 self-identified Latino’s comprised 8% of voters according to national voters, they are much larger populations in specific states, including states that will be “swing states” in the November election. In 2008, they were 13% of the total voter population in Colorado, 14% of the total voter population in Florida, 41% of the total voter population in New Mexico, 15% of the total voter population in Nevada, and 5% of the total voter population in Virginia. A substantial GOP deficit among this demographic group could end up having a substantial impact on the outcome of the election.
None of this should really be surprising, of course. Ever since the immigration reform effort led by John McCain, and supported by President Bush, failed due to conservative opposition to anything that appears to be “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Republican rhetoric on the issue of immigration has become more and more restricionist. There was no better example of this than during the recently concluded race for the Republican nomination when candidates like Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Mitt Romney sought to outdo each other in the kind of policies they would advocate to get rid of illegal immigrants and keep them out of the country, while Rick Perry found himself being ostracized by his own party for advocating policies that acknowledged that there is no easy solution to this problem. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” won the day, which isn’t surprising that this is the same Republican party that brought us the restrictive immigration laws enacted by states like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, all of which have resulted in a negative backlash from the Hispanic population in the state and a host of completely foreseeable economic consequences due to the loss of migrant labor. That’s why Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been warning for some time now that the party needs to change its tone, and in some cases its policies in this area unless it wants to lose the Latino population for a generation or more. That advice has been largely ignored. Instead, Republican candidates for President barely bothered to court Latino voters, instead choosing to seeksu pport from the people who backed those controversial immigration bills that are in part the source of their problems with Latino voters. So the situation that we see in the polling is that Latino 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. It’s all a potential disaster in the making, and is all the fault of the Republican Party.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Obama campaign should be popping champagne corks over this poll, because it also reveals that they’ve got some work of their own to do:
Here’s a troubling sign for the Obama campaign: Latinos aren’t as excited about the upcoming election. A combined 68 percent of Latino voters say they are highly interested in the upcoming election (registering an “8”,”9″, or “10” on a 10-point scale). That’s compared with 81 percent of all voters who express high interest.
This may be due in no small part to the fact that President Obama has also been somewhat of a disappointment for these voters. Despite promises during the campaign, the President has done nothing to push for passage of the DREAM Act, although its worth noting that the measure ultimately died in the senate due to a Republican filibuster. There also hasn’t been a broader push for immigration reform over the past three years, and the odds of Obama being able to accomplish something like that in a second term seem slim indeed unless the Congress somehow manages to switch back to Democratic control, which seems unlikely. Additionally, deportations have actually been proceeding at a faster pace under President Obama than they did under President Bush. So, the Latino vote is potentially a valuable resource for the President in the upcoming election but he’s going to have to do some work to get them to go out to the polls and vote for him. As for the Republicans, I’m not sure what they can do short of fundamentally changing their position on issues of great importance to the Latino community, and that simply isn’t going to happen.