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Can Republicans Win Latino Voters in 2012?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Republican presidential candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (L) speaks as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens in the Fox News/Google GOP Debate on September 22, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. (Phelan M. Ebenhack-Pool/Getty Images/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, President and founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy, Angelo Falcón, talked about how the GOP candidates and President Obama are courting the Latino vote.

GOP's mistake: Conflating Latino voters with illegal immigration

Angelo Falcón sees a huge problem for the Republican presidential candidates: They can't speak to or about Latino voters without bringing up the party's hard line against illegal immigration.

Falcón points out that the vast majority of Latino Americans are citizens, not illegals, and many are more concerned about jobs and the economy than they are about immigration policy. (Latino unemployment hovers close to 12 percent.) But any time Latinos come up in a Republican debate, for example, the conversation seems to switch.

Rick Santorum, during the CNN/Tea Party debate, instead of saying 'Latino voters', he said 'the illegal vote'. There's something happening in the mentality within that sector of the Republican party and among the candidates that they basically can't shake the [immigration] issue and equating it with Latino voters. That's really hurting the party in terms of outreach to the Latino community.

Perry breaks the mold, but is it bad for his candidacy?

The Republican candidate with the most forgiving line on illegal immigration is Rick Perry, who in a recent debate said that opponents of amnesty policies like the DREAM Act didn't "have a heart". That played poorly with the conservative base, but Angelo Falcón said that Perry's answer reflected the difficult position in which he finds himself: Whether to shift right on the national stage, or defend the policies that helped get him elected governor of Texas.

As governor, you have to deal with the fact that Texas has about one-fifth of the Latino population in the country...You have to grapple with the political reality of that, and the reality that you have the largest portion of the border with Mexico to deal with. It really has created backlash for his candidacy.

Obama or bust

With the Republican field the way it is, can any candidate hope to steal Latino voters from Barack Obama, who carried that demographic so handily in 2008?

There's plenty working against Obama in the eyes of Latinos: The struggling economy, disproportionate unemployment, the fact that Obama has, in one term, deported more illegal immigrants that George W. Bush did in two terms. But Angelo Falcón said the wort thing that would happen on election day is that Latino voters stay home—it's unlikely they'd cast a ballot for a Republican.

One thing is that there's tremendous disappointment with the Obama administration, which has promised a lot and delivered very little. But [Obama] is making all sorts of efforts to reach out to the Latino community. The Republican candidates have not even started any serious outreach efforts in the community, except their rhetoric is getting more and more negative.

I think the hope in the Obama administration is that in fact the Republican rhetoric will drive Latinos to vote for Obama...It's not clear they'll have many places to go besides Obama.

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Comments [14]

Hello everyone! I am a Hispanic. My 85 year old father and I are CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS! I am one of those that has a bleeding heart. I volunteer giving free, hot foods and clothing to the homeless in my county.

I do NOT believe in giving illegals a free pass. They need to be deported along with all created anchor babies. Like John said, they "need to be striped of their phony citizenship - gained and gamed through unlawful means and crime and social costs in this country would drop by whopping a 20 -30%." It is VERY unfair, unjust and down right rude to all those millions of people that have followed the CORRECT STEPS and applied for citizenship.

I never liked Obama. I always saw a negative aura around the man. I never voted for him. My suspicions and feelings were very correct. I have a couple of his books, and believe me I read between the lines in regards to how he feels towards his mother, and that "part" of his heritage.

I will never forgive him for bowing down to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Yes, he has bowed to others, but he also has not bowed to Queen Elizabeth.

I like men like MacArthur. He never bowed to anyone. You stand proud and strong. You shake hands, etc.

But, I digress. NO MORE OBAMA! NO MORE ILLEGALS!

Dec. 11 2011 12:30 PM
Marin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@Truth from Becky
LOL...what a misnomer.

Reviewing these comments...you are a vicious Black Racist.

Oct. 11 2011 09:05 PM
john from office

I call a truce Becky, i dont want to be deported. I likes it here

Oct. 11 2011 12:31 PM
Bob fm B'klyn from Brooklyn

The west and southwest are filled with Latinos who call them selves Americans and don't get into this politics of race. They come from families that go back 2-300 years in North America. This race politics has to stop - people need to be judged by the quality of their character and not by the color of their skin. That being said, there are millions of people waiting to get into this country - legally - from all over the world. Illegals should be deported, anchor babies striped of their phony citizenship - gained and gamed through unlawful means and crime and social costs in this country would drop by whopping a 20 -30%.

Oct. 11 2011 12:30 PM
The Truth from B

uh huh

Oct. 11 2011 12:09 PM
john from office

Yes he did and I forgot the brother a dead Marine captain in vietnam. He gave alot for this country and I served in the Marines too.

You can make it here if you try and dont act like a victim.

Oct. 11 2011 12:01 PM
The Truth from Becky

I don't care what he produced, did he ever make his residency in this Country legal? I promise you, I will never let you forget this fact.

Oct. 11 2011 11:59 AM
Bob fm B'klyn from Brooklyn

Your guest just blew all his credibility, or the little he had as a professional lobbyist by stating that he wasn't going to listen to the debate tonight. Way to lead, by putting your head in the sand and not listening to the opposition. A Cain/Rubio ticket will get 25% of the Black vote and 50-60% of the "latino" vote and about 2/3 of the white vote.

Oct. 11 2011 11:49 AM
john from office

The American dream worked for my dad Becky, there are conservative republicans hispanics out there. He produced 3 lawyers, a doctor a banker and a professor. Worked our way out of poverty. Yes I can Judge.

Oct. 11 2011 11:42 AM
Omar Henriquez

We need immigration policies for the 21st century.

Oct. 11 2011 11:40 AM
The Truth from Becky

john, son of an illegal alien, judge of the Black Community....really?

Latinos, have you heard what's going on in Georgia, Arizona, etc..how is that republican thing working out for ya?

Oct. 11 2011 11:39 AM
The Truth from Becky

Latino Repulican - really?

Oct. 11 2011 11:37 AM
John from office

I am a Reagan republican, hispanic son of an illegal alien. The Party is in the wrong place on this issue and has lost a great oppurtunity to win over a large segment of the populations. Perry should stand his ground.

Oct. 11 2011 11:35 AM
Bob fm B'klyn from Brooklyn

You all make a fatal political mistake to lump all "latinos" together. Many if not most self identify as mainstream middle class Americans. They are not concerned with illegal aliens in the same way that professional lobbyists are. Most working people are concerned with the failed economic policies of this failed Presidency. PS - If Florida Senator Marco Rubio becomes the VP candidate - the Republicans will get 50 - 60% of the "latino" vote.

Oct. 11 2011 11:32 AM

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