Make way, ladies. After a week in which both sides aggressively courted women voters, this week is shaping up to be all about wooing the Latino electorate.
With the immigration-heavy presidential primary behind it, the Republican Party is ready to mend fences, and persuade Latino voters in the swing states that Obama’s presidency has been full of empty promises.
Democrats, meanwhile, are moving forward with their plan to cast likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP as dangerously far-right on immigration, hoping to make Romney backers like former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) into household names.
If last week — the first of the general — was all about addressing Romney’s problems with female voters (and Team Obama highlighting said problems), this week will be similarly laser-focused on Latinos, a critically important electorate Republicans once boasted about making inroads with, only to see their support in polls collapse at the end of the primaries. Romney was arguably the primary field’s least attractive candidate on immigration issues (even Newt Gingrich once had a robust Latino outreach program), yet without Latino support, even Romney says Republicans are in trouble.
“We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party,” Romney told donors in Florida Monday, according to an NBC News report. Romney also warned that “recent polling showing Hispanics breaking in huge percentages for President Obama ‘spells doom for us.’”
Democrats, for their part, believe they’ve got the outreach, the track record and the platform to win big among Latinos. Here’s a breakdown of what the fight sounds like:
REPUBLICANS: Obama’s Advantages Are Neutralized, And We’re Ready To Take Advantage
On a conference call with reporters Monday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the failure of the Democratic-controlled Senate to break a GOP filibuster and pass the DREAM Act during the 2010 lame duck session took a big issue for Democrats off the table.
Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish what he said he would, Priebus argues, and therefore can’t run on his record.
“I would also remind Latino and Hispanic voters who are concerned about this particular issue that you have a president that has either lied or is so grossly negligent in following through on his promises when it comes to immigration that he shouldn’t be trusted,” Priebus said. “Obama promised pathway and DREAM Act … and he delivered nothing. He’s not to be trusted.”
Romney signaled Sunday that he’s ready to support a GOP version of the DREAM Act, which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is kicking around in conceptual form. Democrats say Rubio’s DREAM, which will not provide a direct path to citizenship, isn’t going to change any Latino minds.
Meanwhile, the RNC is taking the proactive step of putting six Latino outreach directors on the ground in swing states. They’ll head a targeting and turnout effort that Priebus said will help the GOP make inroads with the community.
DEMOCRATS: Are You Guys Serious?
Much of Monday’s Republican messaging — Democrats are actually in trouble with Latinos because of their legislative failures, Republicans will close the gap by focusing on the economy — has been around for a while. Democrats have dismissed it. Team Obama has had a large, well-funded Latino outreach program for a while now, and the campaign is confident that polls showing Romney trailing Obama badly among Latinos are accurate.
Romney’s past is still haunting him, despite the RNC’s attempt at a transition to a general election reset with Latino voters.
“He’s going to have his work cut out for him, because he was sharply critical and many Hispanics felt that he was offensive, that he was really insulting the way he talked about it,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Monday on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” Romney “was, they felt, dismissive,” when it came to the immigration debate and the furor over laws like SB 1070.
On their own Latino-focused conference call Monday, Democrats talked up the benefits of the Buffett Rule to Latinos — and dismissed the Republican outreach plan. Republicans just can’t escape Pearce, the man who led the legislative charge to make SB 1070 law in Arizona and Kobach, the brains behind SB 1070 and other similar laws across the country, including Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation law, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said on the call.
Pearce is a Romney backer; Kobach is an adviser to the Romney campaign. Democrats say no amount of Republican outreach can help them overcome such dubious associations.
“If I did my simple math very quickly, that means the Republicans are now making the tremendous effort of putting one outreach coordinator out there for every 7 million Latinos in the country,” Becerra said on the call. “That’s about as fast as they’re going to get to the Latino vote if that’s the way that they intend to go at this.”