The problem is clearly on Romney’s mind, so much so that he addressed it openly Sunday at a Florida fundraiser. There, he told his audience that Republicans must do a better job of attracting Hispanic votes and, according to NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, said polling showing Obama far ahead among Hispanic voters “spells doom for us.”
The Hispanic vote will be crucial in many states this fall, from Mountain West battlegrounds — Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico — where the election could be determined, to states such as Florida and Virginia that will be among the most competitive in the nation.
Romney’s Friday schedule reflected those concerns. In Arizona to speak to state chairs of the Republican Party, the former Massachusetts governor included on his agenda a roundtable with Hispanic business leaders.
Immigration is a prime example of how Romney was forced to the right in his battle for the nomination. Faced with a potentially strong challenge from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, he attacked Perry for his support of a state law providing in-state college tuition to children of illegal immigrants who are Texas residents. “It makes no sense at all,” he said in a Florida debate.
Later, he went after former House speaker Newt Gingrich for saying that illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for a quarter-century or more and who have deep roots in a community should be given an opportunity to achieve legal status but not citizenship. Romney called that a form of amnesty that would “create another magnet” for more illegal immigration.
Romney advisers say their candidate’s focus on the economy will help boost his standing with Latinos. “I think that our goal in this campaign is to focus very intently on the economy,” said Kevin Madden, an outside adviser to the campaign. “When we do, I think that Hispanic voters are going to see that they have a better chance for a brighter future for a President Romney than they have witnessed the last four years under President Obama.”
Obama campaign advisers are determined not to let Romney pivot away from some of his past remarks without challenging him as inconsistent or insincere. They say the record from the primary campaign will be difficult to erase or minimize. “I think it’s an impossible image to reverse,” said Joel Benenson, the Obama campaign’s chief pollster.
Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said Romney would have trouble turning back the clock with Hispanic voters. “They tuned in at much higher levels during the Republican primaries as a result of the harsh rhetoric, and his positions on everything from the Arizona law to self-deportation didn’t go unnoticed,” she said.