No Republican presidential candidate has an immigration platform that is more hard line than Mitt Romney’s and that may mean trouble for the former Massachusetts governor — especially in Florida — where Hispanics represent about 10 percent of Republican voters, Politico
Hispanic activists in both parties told the news service they are amazed by the extremity of Romney’s position. And they say it will be difficult for him to rebound, even while he attempts to soft pedal his views in Florida, which holds its primary Tuesday.
“Romney has done himself some real damage,” Ana Navarro, a Florida Republican who has advised John McCain and Jeb Bush, told Politico. “Romney has now thrown Obama a lifesaver on the issue. It’s been stupid and unnecessary. He could have been more nuanced and left himself room to maneuver. Immigration is not most the important issue for Hispanics, but it definitely sets a tone.”
Establishment Hispanic Republicans haven’t joined the Romney endorsement bandwagon. Navarro supported Huntsman. And Lionel Sosa, a former aide to George W. Bush, allied with Newt Gingrich.
Hispanics are particularly upset with Romney’s opposition to the DREAM Act, which would legalize immigrants who came to the United States as children and later enrolled in college or the military.
Polls have shown that more than 90 percent of Hispanic voters favor the DREAM Act. Gingrich supports half of it — the military part. Romney has tried to appeal to Hispanics by touting his opposition to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. And Romney has complained about ads from the Gingrich camp attacking him on immigration.
But not everyone sees immigration as a big issue for the former governor. “Immigration is the least of his worries now,” Alex Castellanos, a consultant who advised Romney’s 2008 campaign, told Politico. “In general, he can surround himself with [former Florida Sen. Mel] Martinez and [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio and come out with a strong plan to increase employment-based legal immigration so we stop China from raiding our top intellectual draft choices.”
In any case, it’s not clear that Hispanics are abandoning Romney for Gingrich.
A poll released this week by Univision News/ABC News shows that among likely Latino voters in the Florida primary, 49 percent favor Romney, compared to 23 percent for Gingrich. About 20 percent are undecided, offering Gingrich some hope.
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