The Hispanic Vote
The Republican candidate John McCain shall air the first Spanish announcements of his campaign this week with the hope of gaining the crucial Hispanic vote in the election this November.
However, given the anti-immigration posture of his party, it shall be difficult to win this battle. The majority of the pollsters agree that the Republican candidate will need around 40% of the Hispanic votes in order to win the November election, almost the same percentage as George Bush had in 2004.
Although McCain is closer to the Latinos than his former Republican rival, the Democrats say that there are various reasons why it shall be difficult for McCain to gain a considerable part of the Latino vote.
• First, the Republican Party has frightened off many Hispanics during the last three years with the anti-immigration rhetoric by almost all of its candidates. During the Republican primaries, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Tom Tancredo defended the massive deportation of millions of undocumented workers without offering legalization to those who had paid their taxes and fulfilled other requirements.
On March 5, a group of Republican senators presented a series of new anti-immigration laws including one that would abolish the use of government documents in Spanish. 76% of Hispanics perceive a growing anti-latino sentiment in the country, according to a recent poll by democrat Sergio Bendixen.
• Second, a record portion of Hispanics that voted in the primaries this year voted for the Democrats (78%) which suggests that Hispanics that vote shall have a massive influence on the Democratic Party this November, according to The New Democratic Network (NDN), a group dedicated to the cultivation of the Hispanic vote for the party.
“It shall cost McCain a lot in reaching the same level of Latino votes that Bush gained because the general climate has changed a lot”, said the director of NDN, Simon Rosenberg. “The Republican posture with respect to immigration has been very damaging for all Republicans”.
• Third, the Democrats treat McCain’s role as the driving force behind the immigration reform McCain-Kennedy law with disgrace and are backed by the majority of Hispanics. The Democrats shall allege that McCain abandoned the project when his presidential candidacy began, abiding with the anti-immigration sentiment of his party and finally permitting the bill to be defeated in the senate. “In a crucial moment for the Latino community, he distanced himself from an enormously important issue for Latinos”, opined Rosenberg.
Besides, the Democrats say that the majority of Hispanics oppose the Iraq war and support universal health insurance. The posture of McCain on various issues does not agree with the Latinos, they say.
But the supporters of McCain retort that the Senator has always done well with the Hispanic vote: in his native state of Arizona he has repeatedly won more that 70% of the Hispanic vote.
“John McCain cannot be qualified as an anti-immigrant”, says Ana Navarro, the candidate’s advisor on Hispanic issues. “During the entire Republican primary, he rejected using the anti-immigration, anti-hispanic rhetoric and now it would do him much less good”.
According to his campaign advisors, Hispanics shall elect McCain because he shall be the candidate that represents family values, patriotism, and the political courage necessary to try to solve the thorny problems such as immigration and public health.
McCain began his campaign to procure the Latino vote last week when he mentioned Latin America for the first time among other regions of the world during a speech dedicated to foreign policy given in Los Angeles. According to his campaign officials, this week they shall begin to spread their first messages in Spanish in New Mexico.
My opinion: of all the recent Republican candidates, McCain has by far the best possibility to conquer the Hispanic vote. But the Democrats are starting with an enormous window among the Latino voters and they shall search to maintain it trying to discredit McCain as a “traitor” in the recent legislative struggle for migratory reform.
If the Republican camaraderie of McCain continues to insist on their anti-immigration cross and the Latinos vote in November in the same quantities as previous months, I don’t see how McCain will be able to turn back the free fall that his own party has inflicted upon itself from the Hispanic vote.