The Washington Post

Republicans increasingly worried about GOP’s Latino problem

GOP strategist Mark McKinnon becomes the latest to sound the alarm:

“Republicans have done a mystifying job of either ignoring or offending Hispanic voters,” said Mark McKinnon, a strategist who worked for former President George W. Bush. “And the consequences for the general election are likely to be significant and perhaps determinative to the outcome.”

This comes after other top GOP officials whose job is to win elections, such as NRSC chair John Cornyn, have privately warned the Romney campaign that his embrace of extreme positions on immigration risks becoming a drag on GOP Senate and House candidates.

Republican officials have begun to push back publicly on the narrative that the GOP has a major Latino problem. They told the New York Times in a big piece today that Republicans would be able to seize on economic suffering among Latinos to make inroads among them, offset any problems being created by the primary’s harsh immigration rhetoric, and loosen traditional cultural bonds between Latinos and the Democratic Party.

But if anything, what’s really revealing is how weak and insubstantial this pushback is. Republicans who talked to the Times present no significant evidence that Latinos are inclined to agree with Republican ideas about the economy. Indeed, a recent Univision/ABC poll found that 55 percent of Latinos agree with Dems that the best way to grow the economy is to invest in federal projects to stimulate the economy. Only 31 percent agree with the GOP agument that lowering taxes is the way to go. Less than a quarter of Latinos trust Republicans to make the right decisions to improve the economy; 61 percent pick Obama and Dems.

More broadly, as Adam Serwer noted the other day, the framing of this discussion is all wrong. The problem isn’t just that the GOP candidates are creating problems for the Republican Party that wouldn’t otherwise exist by inexplicably embracing extreme postions at odds with the party’s long term interests. Rather, the problem is that these candidates appear to think they have to do this to appeal to the Republican Party’s base of support. Romney has opposed the DREAM Act. He’s buddying around with Pete Wilson and Kris Kobach. He attacked Newt Gingrich for his humane suggestion that we shouldn’t deport immigrants who have lived here for over two decades and have deep family and community ties. He continues to denounce Sonia Sotomayor as an “activist, a liberal jurist.”

Romney evidently has decided he needs to do this stuff in order to persuade Republican base voters he’s really one of them, and that they’ll reject him if he doesn’t. If that’s true, then that’s the real source of the GOP’s Latino problem.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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