Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Romney’s Latino gap puts Arizona in play

Okay, so Super Tuesday last week wasn’t quite super for Mitt Romney. None of the Three Amigos — Rick , Newt and Ron — was knocked out. Female voters were seen as fleeing the GOP as a result of that contraception chatter and Rush Limbaugh’s observations.

Then a Fox News poll last week gave President Obama a whopping 5 to 1 lead over Romney among Latinos, a group that gave George W. Bush about 40 percent of its vote in 2004 and gave John McCain, even with Obama’s huge win, a fairly respectable 31 percent in 2008.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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The poll found that Obama leads slightly even among Latinos who voted for McCain four years ago.

That much erosion takes really hard work — and Romney clearly has been up to the task: Unlike Bush and McCain, he’s staunchly opposed to the Dream Act, which provides avenues for citizenship for folks who entered the country illegally as minors.

Romney recently named Pete Wilson , despised among Latinos for pushing an anti-immigrant law as governor of California, honorary chair of his campaign in that state.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach , who helped write tough anti-immigration laws for Alabama and Arizona — which Romney called a “model” — is a Romney adviser.

Kobach has opined: “If you want to create a job for a U.S. citizen tomorrow, deport an illegal alien today.” Guaranteed to drive Latinos away.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer , about as popular with Latinos as the Devil, endorsed Romney last month. (Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio , now off on a wacky birther riff, hasn’t endorsed Romney this time, but he did in 2008.)

Romney’s diligent efforts may be helping him secure the GOP nomination. But he may have turned Arizona (with 11 electoral votes), which since 1952 has only voted once for a Democratic candidate (Bill Clinton in 1996), into a battleground state this year.

Loop Fans may remember that the Obama team briefly considered a push in Arizona in 2008 but backed off. Native son McCain had the state locked up.

And McCain won Arizona by a solid 8.5 points, getting 41 percent of the Latino vote. But if Obama had campaigned and won the Latino vote — then about 18 percent of the state’s eligible voters — by an 80-20 margin, McCain’s win might have been more like a squeaker.

In addition, the Latino turnout there in 2008 was only 36 percent — compared with a national average among Latino registered voters of 44.9, according to data compiled by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Turnout, Arizona pollster and political analyst Mike O’Neil told the Loop, “is the entirety of the political equation.” The question has always been “can anyone wake up this sleeping giant” of the Latino vote, he added. “I’ve heard it over and over and it’s never happened.”

Some Democrats are looking to former Pima County deputy sheriff Richard Carmona to be the alarm clock. Carmona is running in the Democratic primary for an open Senate seat.

If he gets the Democratic nomination, Carmona, a Green Beret, winner of two Purple Hearts in Vietnam and George W. Bush’s surgeon general, may boost Latino turnout. And Obama campaign workers are now in Arizona big-time, opening their fifth office later this month.

Sensing the problem, some Republicans have mentioned the need for Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) to be on the ticket as the vice presidential candidate to stop the erosion.

But Rubio, whose parents left Cuba during the Batista dictatorship, “has no legs outside Florida,” according to pollster Gary Segura of Latino Decisions.

A national poll in January, Segura said, found 25 percent said Rubio on the ticket would make them “somewhat or much more likely,” to vote for the GOP, but 19 percent said it would make them somewhat or much less likely and 47 percent of respondents said it would have no effect at all.

Romney “may try to tack back” after the primaries, said political scientist Ruy Teixeira, “but the damage is done.”

Dutch treat

And now, the first Loop Superglue Award for Adherence to Talking Points (the Gluey) goes to Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart.

In an impressive show of unwillingness to divert from script during an interview with a Dutch journalist — posted on YouTube — Stewart subbornly repeats the phrase “Rick is strong pro-life” over and over . (You can watch it at washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. )

The answer, of course had precious little to do with what the poor fellow was seeking, which was a response to Santorum’s widely refuted claims that 10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands are from euthanasia — half of which are involuntarily — and that elderly folks wear bracelets requesting that they not be put to death.

Our own Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler , concluded there was “not a shred of evidence to back up Santorum’s claims about euthanasia in the Netherlands,” and they were mocked in the Dutch media.

The clip is entertaining for a number of reasons, including the Dutch subtitles and Stewart’s perma-smile. But what really won over the judges was the wink she offers (see 1:12), as if to say, “C’mon, you know I’ve got a job to do here.”

Watch and learn, aspiring flacks, because this is how it’s done. And congratulations to Stewart.

Clooney’s other role

Didn’t hang with George Clooney at the Oscars? That’s okay, since he didn’t win for his excellent work in “The Descendants.”

But you’ll get another chance Wednesday — though you’d better start lining up now — to see Clooney in his more important role as human rights activist. He’ll be testifying about a potential hunger crisis in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

As it turns out, Clooney made a quiet visit last week to the volatile border region between South Sudan and Sudan, visiting burned-out villages and people living in caves because of bombing by Sudan’s military, the Associated Press reported.

Last time Clooney was in town he met with President Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A pack of cameras followed his every move.

This time, he’ll be talking about his work with the Satellite Sentinel Project, an organization he founded with human rights activist John Prendergast.

The project uses satellite images to monitor southern Sudan to deter violence by leaders there — a kind of “anti-genocide paparazzi,” Clooney calls it. And he knows about paparazzi.

Mojito sí

Cuba may have found a recipe for wooing hearts and minds stateside — and it includes a generous splash of rum.

The Cuban Interests Section — which essentially functions as the Cuban embassy, though you can’t call it that, since the United States doesn’t have normal relations with the country — last year opened a Hemingway-themed bar. Since then, the bar, which is open during invitation-only events, has earned a reputation in diplomatic circles for serving what might be the best mojito in town — if you can score one of those invites.

“The secret ingredient is spearmint,” says Jose Pertierra, a Cuban lawyer who lives in Washington and has swilled a few of the cult-famed concoctions. In less-authentic establishments, mojitos might be made with any old mint, but spearmint, we’re told, is essential to the real article.

Wayne Smith , a former chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, says the “mean mojito” and the bar’s focus on Ernest Hemingway — beloved by both Americans and Cubans — are savvy politics. “Stressing the links between the two countries is smart,” he says.

(Of course even smarter would be to cut a deal to free American worker Alan Gross of Bethesda, in prison for more than two years after delivering communications gear to the small Jewish community in Havana.)

The Cubans apparently hope communism goes down a little easier with fine rum accompanied by fresh fruit juice and an icy splash of soda.

And the hand-rolled cigars — which invitees can puff with impunity on the grounds of the complex on 16th Street NW south of Columbia Road — are also said to be world-class.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter @InTheLoopWP.

 
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