GOP Outreach to Latinos Has a Healthcare Problem

So far, Republican outreach efforts have focused on Latino voters and consist of a major push to pass immigration reform. The premise is straightforward, if debatable: To win national elections, Republicans will have to repair their relationship with Latinos, and move away from the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. And while comprehensive immigration reform isn't the preferred policy of the GOP, it seems to offer the shortest path to greater credibility with Latino voters.

But, as the Los Angeles Times explains, there's far more to GOP problems than just immigration. "As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation's illegal immigrants," writes the Times, "the party remains at odds with America's fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare."

By a two-to-one margin, Latinos are huge supporters of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's comprehensive health care law. What's more, Latinos are also likely to see health care as a core government responsibility, and not a privilege or something determined by status. There's a reason for this: Close to 30 percent of Latino citizens and permanent residents lack health insurance, compared to 11 percent of white and 17 percent of black Americans. By expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to middle-class families, the ACA will offer insurance to millions of Latino families.

Overall, in fact, Latinos hold substantively more liberal views than the overwhelming majority of Republicans. A Pew poll released last year found that 75 percent of Latinos want a "bigger government providing more services," while a Univision poll found that Latinos favor direct government investment as a way of growing the economy.

If the GOP were reconciled to Obamacare—or had a viable alternative—this wouldn't be a problem. Hell, if it wasn't so categorically opposed to government intervention in the economy, there would be room to make real gains. As it stands however, neither is true. Republicans are still eager to repeal the law and pull it out "by its roots," and the large majority of conservative energy is directed toward the project of small government at all costs.

Can Republicans make substantive gains among Hispanic voters while calling for repeal of a law that would provide tangible benefits to millions and help alleviate economic hardship among Latino families? If the economy takes a real dip between now and the next election cycle, it's possible. But all things equal, the GOP just isn't in a position to win Latinos, regardless of where it stands on immigration reform.