Gay marriage not changing Latino vote
Republicans have finally arrived at the realization they will need Latino votes to win future elections, and that they must somehow become more attractive to the nation’s fastest-growing voter bloc.
That’s why the national GOP hired Bettina Inclan as head of outreach to Hispanics for its presidential campaign. Inclan has made her living for years trying to get Latinos to vote GOP, but with limited success.
It looked like she caught a break her first weeks on the job when President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage the same week a same-sex-marriage measure was defeated in North Carolina.
The immediate thinking was that Obama’s position would drive away Hispanic voters.
But polls taken one week and two weeks later dispelled that hope. Immigration reform remains a far more important issue, especially to younger Hispanics who tend to voice support for gay marriage in polls.
That took Inclan and the GOP back to Square 1: The best Republicans have done among Hispanics in the last 20 years was about a 40 percent showing by ex-President George W. Bush in 2004, after years of pushing Congress for immigration changes including amnesty for some illegal immigrants.
By contrast, John McCain managed barely more than 30 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. That’s a level Romney briefly approached following his party’s convention, which showcased several conservative Latinos.
But the GOP candidate soon fell back a bit. One reason: he spent much of the spring urging illegals to “self-deport” and campaigning with Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who helped author the Arizona and Alabama stop-on-suspicion laws designed to make police demand proof of legal status from those who even look like they’re in the country illegally.
Self-deportation is already occurring, a result of the lingering bad economy and the federal E-Verify system employers increasingly use to check the status of potential new hires. In late spring, the nation’s illegal immigrant population was down about 1 million from its 2010 level.
And unlike Romney, Obama at least offers Latinos hope for what they consider positive change when he says he’ll push hard for immigration reform if reelected.
Meanwhile, Inclan has had to downplay the ferociously anti-illegal immigrant positions Romney adopted in more than a dozen primary election debates. At the time, he was trying to sound even more xenophobic than Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.
It was inevitable he would try to “etch-a-sketch” away those statements once he clinched the nomination, as his campaign manager put it. But videos remain, easily visible on YouTube, and are sure to be part of Obama’s Spanish-language campaign commercials this fall.
Now it’s clear Obama’s gay-marriage stance won’t matter to very many Hispanic voters, especially since a Gallup Poll reported that 53 percent of Latinos support same-sex unions, about the same as in the general populace.