Blame It (on the GOP)

Writing in Politico, Glenn Thrush finds Republicans terrified of the possibility that their likely nominee—Mitt Romney—has completely alienated Latinos with his harsh, anti-immigration rhetoric, and left Obama with the space to rack up a huge margin of support among the Latino community. Here’s Thrush:

Hispanics, a powerful bloc whose vote could decide the outcome in pivotal states such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado and Arizona, seem to have responded by abandoning Romney, with only 14 percent of Hispanic voters favoring him over Obama in a recent Fox Latino poll — one-third of the Hispanic support George W. Bush enjoyed in 2004.

“In 2008, John McCain paid the price with Latinos for what other Republicans … had said and done,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican Party operative who worked for McCain in 2008 and is a longtime friend of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who remains popular with that state’s large Latino population. “Romney could very well pay an even higher price with Latinos, but it will be for things he’s said and done. The tragic part about it is that he’s done it to win over the very conservatives, and they still [aren’t supporting him].”

The only problem with this—and otherwise, it’s a must-read—is that Thrush paints Romney as the main culprit in the GOP’s terrible standing with Latinos. But it’s the other way around. If you take a look at that Fox Latino poll, you’ll find that every GOP candidate does poorly with Latinos, which points to the truth of the matter: Latinos are alienated from the Republican Party as a whole, and Mitt Romney is taking the heat (with an assist from his awful rhetoric).

If this were a less substantial disadvantage—like a 70–30 or 60–40 split—Romney would be in better shape, especially if Latinos turn out at lower rates because of the administration’s zeal for deportations. But with a 60-point difference between Obama and almost every other Republican, the president can afford to lose votes to turnout; a larger Latino electorate plus higher support puts him on good footing.

Indeed, barring a significant shift away from Obama in the fall, the GOP’s hope right now is for Latino turnout to fall below its 2008 level. But people like to vote against something, and the Republican Party has made itself into a nice target with its anti-immigrant antagonism.