Will Mitt Romney "Self-Hispanic?"
"We're going to be able to get Hispanic voters," Mitt Romney assured big-dollars donors this weekend, adding, "We're going to overcome the issue of immigration." How the Republican presidential nominee plans to do that is another matter.
After all, John McCain captured only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. A recent Pew Research poll shows Democrats enjoy a three-fold (and growing) advantage among registered Latino voters. As it turns out, the GOP's list of Republican Latino candidates includes some who are neither. Worse still, Mitt's high-profile backing by SB 1070 author Russell Pearce may put GOP stronghold Arizona in play. And on top of it, Romney is rapidly alienating Hispanics with his hardline rhetoric on immigration, talking points that include vetoing the DREAM Act and encouraging even long-time illegal immigrants to "self-deport."
But Mitt Romney may still have one more card up his sleeve. Desperate to court Hispanic voters, Mitt Romney might simply declare himself one.
The notion that Mitt Romney might "self-Hispanic" first surfaced during the Florida primary in January. As the Christian Science Monitor explained, the Romney family's roots south of the border could tempt Mitt to claim he would be "the first Mexican-American president?" (around the 3:00 mark)
Considering that Mr. Romney's father was born in Mexico, would that allow the candidate to claim a Mexican-American heritage and dub himself the first Hispanic president, asked Jorge Ramos of Univision TV.
"I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary," where Cuban-American voters could play a decisive role, Romney said. "I think that might be disingenuous on my part."
Of course, when it comes to pandering to key voting blocks, disingenuousness has never been a barrier for Mitt Romney. After all, Romney famously claimed he was part of the "80 to 90 percent of us" who are middle class and told jobless voters that "I'm also unemployed." And when he wasn't regaling crowds with tales of pooping in a bucket during his mission in France, he fondly recalled his kinship with the good people of Wisconsin after his father moved auto jobs there from Michigan. (Whether or not he really enjoys firing people, Mitt Romney almost certainly was never in danger of "getting a pink slip.")
Mitt's Latino makeover would not be without risks. Donning that sombrero would serve to remind a Republican base already suspicious of his Mormon faith that, as NBC explained, "Romney's great grandfather, Miles Park Romney, led that first expedition to escape not persecution but prosecution for polygamy, or what Mormons called 'plural marriage.'"
But Mitt may not have many other options left. The two fastest rising Latino stars in the GOP, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, have already said they are not interested in being Romney's running mate. (Rubio's embellishment of his family's supposed Cuban exile past wouldn't help matters.) While he says he has taken himself out of the Mitt Veepstakes, Rubio like Jeb Bush and Karl Rove insists, "We cannot be the anti-illegal immigration party."
And that remains the problem for Mitt Romney, who famously explained his past hiring of undocumented workers by protesting, "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals." So he'll do what he always can be depended on to do: change positions.
That word comes from Fred Barnes, the conservative water carrier for Republicans past and present. Just three weeks after campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom boasted that his RomneyBot can easily be reprogrammed for a post-primary run back to the center ("You hit a reset button for the fall campaign...It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.), Team Romney promised voters that the unseen Mitt is softer and gentler than the one observed during the Republican primaries:
On one issue--immigration--Mr. Romney would be wise to move away from his harsh position in the primaries. He can't afford to lose the Hispanic vote as decisively as John McCain--who won just 31% of it--did in 2008. According to a Romney adviser, his private view of immigration isn't as anti-immigrant as he often sounded.
Behind closed doors this weekend, Romney admitted as much. He warned his audience that recent polling showing Hispanics breaking in huge percentages for President Obama "spells doom for us." And as MSNBC reported:
Romney said the GOP must offer its own policies to woo Hispanics, including a "Republican DREAM Act," referring to the legislative proposal favored by Democrats that would offer illegal immigrants a limited path to citizenship, to give Hispanic voters a real choice between parties.
Romney nonetheless predicted that, by November, the economy would trump immigration as a driving issue for Hispanic voters, and he vowed also to remind the Hispanic community that, despite promises of comprehensive immigration reform by Obama, Democrats ultimately fell short in passing legislation in their two years in control of Congress and the White House at the start of the president's term.
But if all else fails, you can expect to hear three words from the born-again Hispanic: Soy Mitt Romney.