Romney senses “doom” with Latino voters
Romney said the GOP must offer policies designed to attract Latinos, like a so-called “Republican DREAM Act.” Will that be enough?
Mitt Romney made some of his most candid comments yet about his standing with Latino voters at a closed-door speech to campaign donors this weekend.
During remarks at a private home in Palm Beach, Fla. overheard by reporters, the likely Republican presidential nominee appeared alarmed by recent polls showing Latino voters supporting President Obama by huge margins and offered a glimpse at his plans to reverse than trend.
“We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party,” warning that polls showing him in a deep hole against Obama among Latinos, “spells doom for us,” NBC reported Sunday night.
The former Massachusetts governor said that his party has to offer proposals that would engender support among Latinos, such as a “Republican DREAM Act,” a version of a piece of legislation that would offer a path to citizenship to some undocumented minors.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who has endorsed Romney, has floated the possibility of introducing a pared-down DREAM Act with a path to legality, instead of a special path to citizenship. Romney has not indicated previously his stance on that proposal, though it’s not clear whether he was referring to the legislation Rubio is working on.
Romney said he would also go after Obama on his promise to bring up comprehensive immigration reform in his first term, echoing earlier remarks. But at the end of the day, Romney believes that the economy will determine which candidates Latinos will vote for in November general election.
“We’re going to overcome the issue of immigration,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Romney’s remarks to a private audience, which he has yet to repeat in public, represent his most revealing comments to date about his plan to win back Latino voters, but the task will prove difficult as the campaign transitions into the general election phase.
The former governor trailed Obama by 42 percentage points, 67-25, in a January Univision/ABC News/Latino Decisions poll. Most experts believe Romney will need to attract between 35 and 40 percent of the overall Latino vote to be in a position to defeat Obama in the fall.
During the primary, Romney positioned himself as the toughest candidate on immigration in part to make himself more appealing to the GOP’s conservative base. But those stances appeared to alienate large swaths of Latino voters. Party leaders have warned Romney would need to moderate his immigration stances to repair some of the damage. Even though Romney is now eyeing that pivot to the middle, Obama and Democrats plan to exploit his hard line rhetoric on immigration to further drive down his standing with Latinos.
In an interview with Univision this weekend, Obama called Romney’s support for Arizona’s strict immigration policies “very troublesome.”
“We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country; that — and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption,” he said. “This is something that the Republican nominee has said should be a model for the country.”
Democrats have indicated they plan to blanket radio and television airwaves with that message in the coming months, which could draw attention away from Romney’s economic pitch to Latinos. The Arizona issue will come back into the fold next week, when the Supreme Court hears arguments over the state’s SB 1070 crackdown law. A ruling is expected in June.
It’s also unclear how a potential GOP DREAM Act alternative will be received, some immigration reform advocates and media outlets have already dubbed it a half-measure.
Also in his speech, Romney identified government agencies in which he would look to make cuts, including the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which his father once helmed.
Significant cuts to the size of government could also be a tough sell to Latinos, an April Pew Hispanic Center poll showed 75 percent of Latino adults support a bigger government that provides more services.