As the Republican primary whips through Florida today and Nevada this weekend, Democrats and Republicans alike are attempting to persuade the press that their party is the natural home for this fast growing constituency.
The Obama for America campaign released a memo this week making the case that Republicans have alienated Hispanic voters. Issued by Obama for America pollster Sergio Bendixen and Director of Hispanic Press, Gabriela Domenzain, the memo focuses on two polls that find Republican frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich facing serious challenges among Latino voters.
One poll, from Univision/Latino Decisions, shows President Obama with a 72 percent favorability rating among Hispanic voters, and Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both below 30 percent favorability. The poll also finds Obama besting Romney and Gingrich in a head-to-head match up.
The other poll should be more troubling for the GOP as it was conducted by a Republican-leaning polling group, Resurgent Republic. That poll shows Obama beating a generic Republican in Florida, a state that will be critical to determining the outcome of the November election. The poll did not include head-to-head match ups between Romney or Gingrich, an omission that is itself telling.
In the memo, Bendixen and Domenzain address the anti-immigrant rhetoric and rancor that has characterized the Republican primaries, but also highlight additional issues on which the Republican frontrunners and Latino voters diverge.
“The positions the Republican candidates have taken on the issues most important to the Hispanic community are directly at odds with Hispanic voters,” the memo reads. “The speeches and policy statements of both Romney and Gingrich on issues like the economy, the creation of jobs, health care, public education, housing, programs for seniors, and immigration are deeply unpopular with most Hispanics.”
Although Democrats have benefited politically from the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino foibles of the Republican primary, the national media’s attention on immigration has overshadowed a larger narrative about Hispanics’ political alignment. Democrats are wise to seize upon this moment of national attention to broaden the conversation about Hispanic voters beyond immigration, and to embed the narrative about Democratic strength and Republican weakness before they have even chosen their nominee.
Regardless of who captures the Republican nomination, Democrats will have already made it harder for him to moderate his positions on the issues that most impact this community without looking like he is pandering for our votes.