As Republicans battle to determine who is the “true conservative” in their presidential field, and worry over the possibility of a third-party candidacy by Ron Paul, some of their old problems with the general electorate haven’t exactly gone away. Writing at Salon, Tom Schaller takes a look at recent public opinion surveys of Hispanics and talks to some of the experts, and concludes John McCain’s surprisingly poor performance in this demographic in 2008 could be tough for this year’s nominee to match:
“The GOP’s reputation among Latinos is as bad as it has ever been, driven primarily by statements and state legislation on immigration,” Gary Segura, a Stanford political scientist, co-investigator on the National Latino Survey, and president of Latino Decisions polling firm, told me. “Though President Obama’s early inaction on immigration reform and his record deportations significantly undercut his support within the community, there is not a single Republican presidential candidate willing or able to exploit that weakness; they are all too busy tacking to the right to please their base.”
Only 17 percent of Latinos say that the Republican Party is doing a “good job,” according to a Latino Decisions poll taken last month. Forty-six percent agreed that the GOP “doesn’t care too much” and another 27 percent described the party as “hostile” to Latino interests. With a combined 73 percent of Latinos expressing generally or strongly negative attitudes to the party, the Republican nominee is almost guaranteed to win a minority of Latino votes in 2012.
Schaller doesn’t specifically mention that likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has positioned himself as an immigration hardliner in order to exploit nativist unhappiness with Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich’s positions. But it’s going to be an issue in the general election.
Some Republicans, as Schaller notes, look to a possible vice-presidential nomination for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a significant palliative for their Hispanic problem. But as The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn explained last September, the evidence of Rubio’s “pull” among non-Cuban Hispanics is very slim.
The Republicans’ strategy for appealing to Hispanics will become a very big deal as the general election cycle gets underway. But right now you get the sense such voters are far, far from their minds.