Talking Points Memo reports that the Romney campaign wants to use the convention to “reset” Mitt Romney’s relationship with Latinos. He’s going to need a pretty big reset — Latinos will have to forget what Romney has been saying and proposing for a year now.
It’s not hard to see why the Romney camp wants a reset. President Obama has held a 2-to–1 lead among Latinos for months. The most recent poll from NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo shows Romney with 28 percent support among Latinos, compared to 63 percent for Obama. An analysis from Univision found Romney with 22.9 percent support among Latinos after you averaged the ten most recent surveys.
Team Romney says it wants to exceed John McCain’s performance among the demographic. “Our goal is to do better than four years ago and the McCain campaign did — our goal is to hit 38 percent with the Hispanic vote,” Jose Fuentes, a co-chairman of Romney’s Hispanic leadership team, said recently.
But McCain spent years building credibility with the Hispanic community. He was a vocal supporter of immigration reform and was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act in 2005. It was only the the rabidly anti-immigration views of the GOP base that forced McCain to adopt a more hardline stance during the 2008 campaign.
Mitt Romney, by contrast, positioned himself as an anti-immigration hawk throughout the GOP primary. He excoriated Rick Perry for extending in-state tuition eligibility to the children of undocumented immigrants. He promised to veto the DREAM Act. He endorsed Arizona-style measures, calling them a model for the country.He praised “self-deportation,” the idea that we should deter immigration by making conditions as miserable as possible.
For a good sense of where Romney falls on immigration, look no further than his former association with Kris Kobach, the Kansas attorney general who — before entering electoral politics — worked with lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska to craft incredibly draconian immigration laws. At one point, during the primaries, he praised Romney as the most conservative candidate on immigration policy. Romney’s response? “I’m so proud to earn Kris’s support.”
The Romney campaign has a lot of money to burn, and I’m sure the cash can help retrieve some Latino support between now and November. But Team Romney is kidding itself if it believes it can approach — or even surpass — McCain’s performance among Latinos. Since his debut on the national stage, Romney has been nothing but antagonistic to Hispanic immigrants.
The calculation for most Latino voters is simple: Obama isn’t perfect, but at least he doesn’t pal around with nativists.