In his American Prospect article “GOP Candidates Alienate Latino Voters,” Paul Waldman reports that Democrats are benefiting substantially from the Republican leadership’s immigrant-bashing and nativist attitudes, now on vivid display in the GOP presidential horse-race. Waldman notes Romney’s recent sneering reference to New York as “poster child of sanctuary cities” under Guiliani, and adds,
There is no doubt that Romney and the rest of the Republican field will find an audience for anti-immigration rhetoric in the primaries. But by indulging this particular corner of the Republican id, they could be doing monumental, long-term damage to their party….when a party says again and again that you and people like you are the biggest problem facing the country, it’s hard to muster up enthusiasm for its candidates. If the GOP keeps this up, Latino Republicans could become like gay Republicans, a tiny, beleaguered group waging a daily battle against cognitive dissonance, scapegoated by their own party and mocked by their friends for associating with people who despise them.
But Waldman predicts that the Republicans’ nativist rhetoric will suddenly disappear once their presidential candidate is nominated, due to the strength of Hispanic demographic trends in battleground states:
There will be no more talk of building walls, of freeloading immigrants sucking our health system dry, of the vital importance of declaring English our national language. Questions on immigration will be answered with dodges and vagueness, the subject quickly changed to something safer.
But Waldman says it won’t work because “Latinos certainly know which party is against them.” Latinos favored Democratic congressional candidates by a 39 point margin in 2006, and if the GOP field keeps it up, Dems could do even better in ’08.