The Republican Party's diminished standing among Latino voters could be a fatal weakness come November, likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney said at a closed-door fundraiser on Sunday.
Hispanics represent a large and growing part of the electorate in key swing states like Colorado, New Mexico and Florida, and polls indicate that President Obama has opened a substantial lead over Romney among Latino voters. Romney cast the imperative of narrowing that margin in dire terms on Sunday, telling his audience that Obama's current advantage spells doom for us.
We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party, Romney said in comments reported by NBC.
Romney could find himself in a precarious position after backing a state-level crackdown on illegal immigration launched by Arizona, whose stringent new immigration law provided the template for similar legislation in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Those laws have drawn legal challenges from the Obama administration and been denounced as discriminatory by immigrant advocates, but Romney praised the Arizona law as a national model while enlisting its architect, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, as an adviser.
The former Massachusetts governor has also said he would veto the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would offer citizenship to some immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children but have since pursued military service or college degrees. Romney has opposed forms of legal relief for undocumented immigrants as amnesty, calling a Texas bill to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants a magnet for illegal immigration.
Polls show that the Arizona law is deeply unpopular among Latino voters while the DREAM Act enjoys widespread Hispanic support. But Romney said on Sunday that his economic message would win over Latinos, who have been hit harder by the economic crisis than average Americans.
We're going to be able to get Hispanic voters, Mr. Romney said. We're going to overcome the issue of immigration.
But Romney also floated the possibility of a Republican DREAM Act, echoing a proposal by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio's name surfaces often as a potential vice presidential pick, and Romney responded to a question about Rubio on Monday by calling him one of the terrific leaders in our party.
The Republican National Committee has also moved to shore up its Latino support, announcing on Monday the appointment of special Hispanic outreach directors in six battleground states that Obama won in 2008: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
Latinos are clamoring for change, and the Republican Party is here to offer them the change they're looking for, RNC chair Reince Priebus said Monday during a conference call to reporters, according to the Hill, adding that Latinos have been bearing the brunt of the Obama economy.