TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican convention may feature a slew of Latino speakers, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told reporters on Tuesday that the GOP’s latest goodwill effort isn’t going to cut it with Latino voters.
“You can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party,” Villaraigosa, who is chairman of this year’s Democratic National Convention, said at a press conference in Tampa.
He singled out the RNC’s platform, a draft of which leaked to the press and which includes a statement of support for state laws that crack down on illegal immigrants, a plank calling for completion of a border fence and another opposing in-state tuition for undocumented students.
“This is a party with a platform that calls for the self-deportation of 11 million people,” he said. “What country in the world has ever deported 11 million people?”
A slew of recent polls show Romney scraping bottom with Latino voters — behind even John McCain’s disastrous 2008 performance. Villaraigosa predicted Democrats would garner “close to 70 percent of the Latino vote.”
While the GOP is looking to create a big-tent image, most of its featured Latino politicians largely toe the party line on immigration. Speakers like Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz all oppose a stand-alone DREAM Act and have condemned Obama’s executive action halting deportations of some young illegal immigrants.
With the party’s immigration position firmly planted on the right, the economy appears to be Republican leaders’ No. 1 answer to all questions regarding the Hispanic community.
The Romney campaign launched a new Spanish-language ad on Tuesday. In it, Romney speaks directly to the camera, asking Latino voters to consider the impact the struggling economy has had on their lives over the last few years. At a bilingual RNC briefing with Latino reporters on Monday, Republican officials tried to steer the topic to the unemployment rate even in the face of a barrage about the GOP’s hardline immigration position.
House Speaker John Boehner bluntly told reporters on Monday that if Republicans can’t actually win over minority voters, a weak recovery might at least keep them from voting in droves for Democrats.
“These groups have been hit the hardest,” Boehner said. “They may not show up and vote for our candidate but I’d suggest to you they won’t show up and vote for the president either.”
Villaraigosa told TPM that he wasn’t surprised by Boehner’s comments. He noted that earlier Republican ads and statements played up Latino disillusionment over Obama’s failure to pass the DREAM Act or a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Left out: the fact that Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly led the charge to block them.
“We saw right after Romney clinched the nomination, they were doing commercials to depress the vote,” he said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.