If the new Gallup survey shows anything, it’s that Mitt Romney — and the Republican Party writ large — will have a very hard time repairing the damage they’ve sustained among Latino voters, even with a message focused relentlessly on the economy.
Gallup focuses on the issues that matter most to Latino voters. Immigration, for example, falls lower on the list of priorities than you might think. Only 12 percent of say that immigration policies are most important to their political decisions. By contrast, 21 percent say health care is most important, and 19 percent say unemployment is most important.
On the face of it, this seems to validate Mitt Romney’s decision to focus entirely on jobs when addressing Hispanic voters. Last week, for example, the bulk of his speech to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials was focused on the economy. The idea, it seems, is that Hispanics will overlook Romney’s reactionary immigration policies, and instead will trust him to fix the economy. Yet the same poll says:
The USA Today/Gallup poll also finds President Barack Obama leading presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 66% to 25% among Hispanic registered voters, with 9% undecided — similar to Hispanic preferences in the 2008 presidential election.
The problem for Romney is that Latino distrust for the Republican Party goes beyond policy disagreement. In addition to its support for draconian immigration laws — like the ones in Arizona and Alabama — the Republican Party has repeatedly demonstrated the extent to which it doesn’t respect the place Latino voters hold as part of the national polity, ham-fisted efforts at outreach notwithstanding.
On the local, state, and federal level, Republican politicians demonize Latino voters, and push for laws that would significantly restrict their freedom to work and live. Republican allies continually refer to Latinos as “illegals” or “illegal aliens,” and GOP voters punish presidential candidates who offer the slightest of sympathy to undocumented immigrations. And, at the moment, the Republican Party is fronting a presidential candidate who — his current rhetoric aside — has staked out a far-right position in the immigration debate.
At the moment, there’s simply too much poison in the relationship between Republicans and Latino voters for the GOP to make any gains in the short-term, even with a message focused heavily on the economy. Which means that, as Romney builds a strategy for November, he’ll have to focus even harder on winning a huge majority of white voters.