Barack Obama’s campaign team is tight-lipped about nearly every aspect of their strategy, except one: They are counting on record Latino turnout to push their man over the finish line.
The president’s re-election campaign released a memo Monday, one day before the Florida primary, entitled “Republicans Seal Their Fate With Hispanic Voters In 2012,” authored by Sergio Bendixen, a pollster who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 bid, and Gabriela Domenzain, director of Hispanic press for Obama for America. It argues the president could receive a greater percentage of Hispanic support than any candidate in modern history, thanks largely to harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Republicans seeking to replace him.
Mitt Romney, the moderate of the candidates, opposes the DREAM Act, which would make it easier for the children of illegal immigrants to become citizens. Newt Gingrich has called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” and both men have called for some form of “self-deportation” by Latinos residing illegally in the United States.
Back on January 3, the day of the Iowa caucus, Priorities USA, the Super PAC led by former Obama aide Bill Burton that is working to boost his re-election efforts, released a strikingly similar memo that also argued the Republicans had done themselves “permanent damage” with Latinos. Geoff Garin, Clinton’s top pollster in 2008, works with that group.
We may be getting a preview of an ongoing strategy: use the Super PAC to tease a message and prime reporters and engaged readers to be receptive to it, and then use the actual campaign to distribute it more widely. That former Hillary pollsters were in some way or other associated with both efforts suggests Obama for America thinks it has demographic trends on its side, and is confident the 2012 election will be sharply ideological, in contrast to the more personality-based contests of 2000, 2004, and 2008.
Here are some choice bits of the memo, which points out that the healthcare law both Republican frontrunners loudly insist be repealed has strong support in the Hispanic community:
According to recent polls, the two leading contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, may very well have already sealed the political fate of their party with the Hispanic electorate – the fastest growing voting bloc in the country. Their extreme rhetoric on immigration during the televised debates has rejected our history as a nation of immigrants and alienated millions of Hispanic voters nationally. Many Hispanics see Romney’s strong opposition to the DREAM Act and to any type of comprehensive immigration reform as more of a demagogic appeal to Tea Party voters than an attempt to formulate a responsible policy.
The latest national Univision/Latino Decisions poll of Hispanic voters clearly indicates the weak position Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are in with Hispanic voters, and how much of an advantage Barack Obama will have over them in the general election. According to the survey, the President has a 72 percent favorability rating among all Hispanic voters and a 25% unfavorability rating. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are both deep underwater, at 28/41 and 24/44, respectively.
When it comes to the November election, President Obama may receive the highest percentage of the Hispanic vote ever – higher than the 73 percent that Bill Clinton got in his 1996 reelection. The Univision/Latino Decisions poll has him defeating Newt Gingrich 70% to 22% and Mitt Romney 67% to 25% — by larger margins than the 67% to 31% the President received in 2008 over McCain, who ultimately lost the election. Even a strong primary performance by Romney in Florida, a state with the highest proportion of conservative Hispanic voters, should not be taken as a sign of growing Republican strength in the state. Romney currently leads Gingrich 35-20 in Florida among Hispanic voters, according to the Univision/Latino Decisions Poll. But in the 2008 primary, McCain won the Florida Cuban vote 54-9 over Romney, and 53-21 over Romney with non-Cuban Hispanic voters. Although Romney seems likely to achieve a much more impressive primary victory this time around, McCain still ultimately lost to Obama 57-42 among Hispanic voters in Florida.
And a Republican-leaning group poll [Resurgent Republic, 1/26/12] last week showed the President easily beating a generic Republican in Florida and seen favorably by the majority of Hispanic voters in the state. If those numbers hold among Hispanic voters, President Obama would have a much greater chance of carrying Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Hispanics strongly support the Affordable Care Act that will give every American access to quality health care at an affordable cost and insure 9 million Hispanics that currently have no health insurance; Romney and Gingrich have promised to repeal the new health care law – a position held by just 28% of Hispanic voters according to the Univision/Latino Decisions poll.
And on the issue of immigration, an issue that Governor Romney has led the charge in demagoguing, the damage that both Gingrich and Romney have caused by pandering to the extreme right of their party, may be irreversible. Both Gingrich and Romney oppose an earned path to citizenship, which 71% of Hispanics favor. On the DREAM Act, which Romney has promised to veto and called a “handout,” the latest Univision poll not only indicates that 85% of Hispanics support it, but also that the majority of Hispanics are less likely to support a candidate who does not.
Given the President’s current strong standing in the polls nationally with Hispanic voters, and the extreme positions and rhetoric of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, this upcoming election could seal Republican’s fate with Hispanics not only in 2012, but for generations to come.