Many in the GOP may be coming around on immigration reform in the wake of the party’s flop among Latino voters last week, but Mitt Romney isn’t one of them.
Romney said on a conference call reported by The New York Times that he performed poorly among Hispanics because he couldn’t compete with President Barack Obama’s policy “gifts,” like access to healthcare and a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The comments, viewed by many as insulting, did nothing to help conservatives mend their tattered relationship with Hispanics after Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote -- less than any GOP presidential contender since Bob Dole.
Romney, as quoted by The New York Times:
[W]ith Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.
Romney isn’t the only conservative trying to paint Latinos as freeloaders looking for “gifts” from the politicians they support.
Conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lamented the end of “traditional America” and the country’s “changing demographics” on election night, saying that 50 percent of the voters want “stuff” and “things.”
The assumption that Latinos are looking for a government handout ignores the fact that the Hispanic community is disproportionately entrepreneurial. As Cristina Costantini points out in a column for ABC/Univision, Hispanics created twice as may businesses as the general public since 2000, according to census data. There are, however, more Latinos than any other demographic group who are not covered by health insurance and, as a result, have spotty access to health care.
Latino voter rejection of Romney’s candidacy came as no surprise. He rarely polled above the lower 30's among Latinos for the duration of the campaign and he adopted hardline immigration policies sharply at odds with the Latino mainstream since the hard-fought GOP primary.
The Romney campaign’s economic message also failed to hit home for Hispanics. The GOP failed to convince Latino voters that Obama was responsible for the poor state of the economy, according to Matt Baretto of Latino Decisions. Instead, Latino voters viewed the policies of George W. Bush as the catalyst for the 2008 crash.
Some pollsters say the Miami-Dade Cuban-American vote -- among the most reliably conservative Latino blocs in the country -- shifted toward Obama last week, though the numbers are in dispute.
It’s a problem that will only get worse if the GOP refuses to address it. The Latino electorate is expected to double over the next 20 years, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.