Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 10/17/2011

Republicans head West, talk immigration

Immigration has been one of the unexpected bright lines dividing the Republican field. Despite his militant approach to stopping the cross-border drug trade, Rick Perry’s no-border-fence stance and support of in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students has made him a target of the rest of the field, most of whom seem to be vying for the most conservative position.

Front-runner Mitt Romney, for example, referred to illegal immigrants as illegal aliens during one of the debates. Herman Cain has advocated building a Great Wall of China-like structure on the border. The candidates all have a similar stance on immigration reform:secure the border first, immigration reform later.

For Latino voters, immigration reform is tied with the economy as the most important issue Latinos think Congress and President Obama should address. Based on a new poll by Latino Decisions and impreMedia, 42 percent of Latinos rank immigration reform and the DREAM Act as the most important issues.
Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain looks on as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shake hands at the conclusion of a Republican presidential debate. (Justin Sullivan - GETTY IMAGES)

And how are the candidates, who appear out West Monday, faring?

Perry’s support of a Texas-style DREAM Act hasn’t bought him any good will with Latinos—according to the poll, 39 percent have an unfavorable view of him, with 22 percent viewing him favorably. Romney does slightly better, with 28 percent favorable ratings and 26 percent unfavorable. Cain is hardly known by Latinos, according to the poll of 600 Latino voters (52 percent said they had never heard of him, 15 percent had favorable views and 14 percent had unfavorable views). Perry is slightly better known than Cain and Romney.

Most Latinos are still leaning towards Obama, who has begun Hispanic outreach; 64 percent of those polled said they will likely vote for him. But analysts say that support is soft enough to provide an opportunity for Republicans who are interested in wooing Latinos.

“There is an opening if the Republicans change their messaging,” said Matt Barreto, polling director for Latino Decisions. “The problem is that the Latinos don’t know who [the candidates] are, and they aren’t having any positive outreach. They could easily soften their image and their rhetoric and make some inroads, but they are absolutely missing that chance right now.”

TRAIL MIX: Where to find the candidates

Herman Cain heads to Arizona for a GOP fundraiser and to meet with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arizona has been on the forefront of tough new immigration laws, and Arpaio has been the face of law enforcement—Cain has praised the crackdowns, and Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney have all spoken with Arpaio. At rallies in Tennessee this weekend, Cain pitched a lethal electric fence as a way to secure the border. But he backed off the proposal in an interview on “Meet The Press” with David Gregory (he told Gregory he was just joking about erecting a border fence that would kill people who tried to cross into the country illegally). At least some people seemed to take the remarks seriously.

Michele Bachmann also appears in Arizona today for a border security roundtable with the state’s lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The session is closed to the press, but Bachmann, who raised $4 million in the third quarter and has $1.3 million on hand going into the final stretch before the Iowa caucus, will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. mountain standard time (1:30 p.m. in Washington).

Mitt Romney, who won the Nevada caucus in 2008, opens his Nevada campaign headquarters in Las Vegas in advance of Tuesday’s debate. Ron Paul will also be in Las Vegas for what his campaign says will be a major announcement at 3 p.m. local time (6 p.m. in Washington).

WHAT TO READ

The Herman Cain Train rolls on with this Newsweek cover story: Yes We Cain.

Is the Perry campaign quietly promoting the anti-Mormon message, even as it distances itself from it?

Mormons go mainstream with Mitt in the lead.

Nevada ignored by Republicans

Nevada courted by Republicans.

WHAT TO WATCH:

Mitt Romney’s Spanish-language ad from 2008, “Mi Padre,” narrated by his son Craig, a fluent Spanish speaker. The spot ran in Florida and suggests how Romney might court the Latino vote in key states.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 10/17/2011

 
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