Hispanic vote likely to stay with Obama

August 16, 2011


Despite the avalanche of bad news for President Barack Obama, he remains the most likely winner of the 2012 elections.

That’s the conclusion I reached after watching the top Republican presidential hopefuls in recent weeks, as they started in earnest the race for their party’s nomination. They have taken such a hard line on issues that are dear to Latinos, that I don’t see how any of them can win the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote that pollsters say Republicans will need to win the White House.

The last Republican president, George W. Bush, got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and the Latino vote has only become more important since. Former Republican candidate Sen. John McCain — who ran as a moderate on immigration — lost the 2008 campaign in part because he got only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, pollsters say.

So the question today is, how will any of the current Republican hopefuls win a sizable part of the Hispanic vote, when they are embracing a much harder line on Hispanic issues than McCain did in 2008?

At the Republican debate Thursday in Iowa, none of the participating hopefuls supported a comprehensive immigration reform policy — as McCain did four years ago — that would both secure the border and allow an earned path to legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants who are willing to, among other things, pay fines and learn English.

Their common stand seemed to be: “Let’s first seal the border” and crack down on “illegals.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who did not participate in the debate but announced his candidacy two days later, toes the same enforcement-first line.

As they try to woo conservative Republicans who tend to be the largest voting blocs in the primaries, they are likely to escalate their rhetoric. To Hispanics, they look like a group bent on the massive deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the country, even bright students brought here as babies by their parents.

Republican pollsters note that, according to their surveys, Hispanic voters place the economy, education and health ahead of immigration on their list of priorities.

Democratic pollsters counter that it will be hard for Republicans to campaign on the economy when Republican hopefuls are calling for deeper cuts in social programs that most Hispanics want to preserve. In addition, immigration plays a big role in Hispanics’ voting decisions, they say.

“Immigration is an emotional issue,” Democratic pollster Sergio Bendixen told me. “It indicates to us which candidate likes us, and which one doesn’t.”

Several Republican Party leaders, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, have recently launched a Hispanic Leadership Network to woo Latinos to the Republican Party. Last week, I asked Gutierrez how his party can improve its standing among Latinos with its current anti-immigration, anti-social programs rhetoric.

Gutierrez, who supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, and considers his candidate to be a “pragmatist,” conceded that Republicans will have a hard time winning with any candidate who Hispanics perceive as hostile to them.

“The Republican nominee will have to be someone who is a moderate,” Gutierrez told me. “We have to embrace immigration: If we are the party of prosperity, we have to be the party of immigration.”

My opinion: Republicans have a big problem with Hispanics. Granted, Obama is facing an economic slowdown that affects Hispanics more than most other Americans, and he has failed to meet his campaign promise to pass a comprehensive immigration reform that could benefit millions of Latinos.

In addition, the Obama administration has deported nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants over the past three years — more than Bush in his eight years in office. But Republicans won’t be able to criticize Obama on any of these counts, because their presidential hopefuls are calling for deeper budget cuts without new taxes on the rich, and come across as supporting the massive deportation of all undocumented immigrants.

Barring a shift to the center that would help Republicans win more Hispanic votes, or a worse-than-expected U.S. economic downturn that would drive Latino voters to stay at home on election day rather than voting for the president, Obama will be re-elected in 2012.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. His email is aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com


cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

"Hispanic vote likely to stay with Obama."

Let's try something more accurate:

"Votes of Hispanic Leftists aligned with La Raza likely to stay with Obama."

Given the right candidate, Republicans can be expected to do very well in gaining votes from the many hard-working Hispanic Americans who thrive on self-reliance and don't rely on government for their every need.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 10 months ago

..."given the right candidate" seems to be the key here. Which one would that be? They look like the Insane Clown Posse to me.Sorry ICP, didn't mean to dis you.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

The only Insane Clown I can think of lives for the present at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 10 months ago

cato that's retarded. Why would hispanics go with the party of racism and hate? Why would anyone other than the backward, loser racists clinging to their hate? With the racist laws the Reps are trying to pass under the guise of voter fraud, hispanics see through it and are not likely to forget which party wants to put up a huge fence and add a moat and gators and who is in favor of police acting like gestapo and stopping anyone they racially profile and ask for their papers?

Your nonsensical language might sit well with your loser righty friends who don't bother to educate themselves on issues, but the fact of the matter is that most of America is in the middle, never as vocal as either extreme, but you do a nice job of parroting the talking points you were given.

Hard working Americans come in all stripes and include many Democrats and Independents who take issue with your b.s. Fact is nobody suggests relying on government for their every need, to suggest otherwise is just idiotic.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Republicans will have a hard time winning any elections as long as their policy goals are rooted in class warfare.

That's why they need to pass vote suppression laws, and why the activist Robert's Supreme Court went fishing for a case that resulted in the Citizen's United decision that essentially opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate money in election advertising.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

Bozo - You create class warfare at every opportunity. To be fair, the Democrats and Republicans do as well.
I recall something about a kettle and a pot.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

The border is a revolving door. It matters little how many illegal aliens are deported if they can simply turn around and come back in.

Mike Ford 6 years, 10 months ago

firstly, I venture into this...the hispanic gop people are from the landed classes who like the thieves here exploit everyone else for the wealth of themselves and blame the other social classes for the problems as they maintian their greed. In some of the south and' central american countries the Catholic Church is either with the landed elite or with the masses. Secondly, English and Spanish are imigrant languages unlike Mayan, Quechan, or Mixtec, or Olmec, or Nahuatl. You see most of central and south america is indigenous. Down there the word Indios or Indian is a slur reserved for the indigenous people of many countries who are exploited and oppressed to the point where they come here to survive. One has to look at the mass killings of indigenous peoples in Guatemala in the early 1980's during Reagan to see that the greedy people down there are no different than the greedy people here. The lighter skinned they are the more they run things for the exploitation of others. Dingbats will call me racist but their depth of knowledge here probably amounts to knowing what contra means due to ollie north and nothing else. Stop exploiting and pillaging and raping and stealing and people stay at home...of course since North America and Central and South America were settled pretty much the same way.. what can one do....except scapegoat the hardworking people who do the jobs lazy americans won't....for the labor price that anti-worker american ceos and labor law circumventing republican politicians like tom delay and jack abramov loved....today's a new day let the gop own what they do....please fessup...oh well....

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

English is clearly not your first language. I'm hoping someone will translate this so I might understand what you said. Your tone is clear, though.

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