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Ryan Campbell Headshot

Romney, Latinos and the Local Races

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AP
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2012-10-27-IMG_3214.jpg
Connie Mack introducing Mitt Romney in Tampa during the RNC

It's undeniable that the biggest liability to Romney's campaign is the man himself: he's contorts his rhetoric in so many different directions at the same time that Cirque de Soleil would give him a standing ovation, and YouTube wasn't sleeping when he took all those local, pandering stances. I don't envy him; he's had to do it because the Republican Party, after being taken over by the Tea Party as a result of the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush years, doesn't have a particularly strong identity outside of being crazy conservatives like Alan West. This decentralization of the base has left him to try and make alliances with the disparate tribes in the post-apocolyptic, Mad Max world that the Republican Party has become. My own life-long Republican family has become so disgusted with the rhetoric on the campaign trail to satisfy each chieftan this year that they're considering not voting, or voting Democrat for the first time, and they're not the only ones.

This political hellscape is the result of Romney's need to appeal to a group of intellectual pygmy's who want to "take their country back," however, are not his only problem: The congressional races are shooting him in the foot to join all those holes he blew himself.

Scott Brown, Dean Heller, Jeff Flake, Connie Mack, George Allen, Brian Bilbray and the laughably absurd professional wrestling mogul Linda McMahon will all help put a negative spotlight on the Republican Party to Latinos on the heels of the "Yo Decido" and "We are all Americans (just not legally)" covers of TIME Magazine with their policies and rhetoric. In previous elections this may not matter much, however, with large, national organizations such as United We Dream, and dozens of smaller organizations in nearly every state like the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, demonstrators have been showing up to all of the above named candidates' offices and rallies to demonstrate; throughout my own travels on the campaign trail since January, other than a rare showing from Occupy, the DREAMers were the only ones consistently getting inside national and local political rallies to protest.

The DREAMers are also the most sympathetic characters in the Latino community (as well as other communities which haven't been as vocal in the immigration debate); watching them get publicly stomped on for a few cheap votes in a local election doesn't sit well with George Lopez, no matter where in the country it happens.

On the issue of the DREAM Act, Brown, Heller, Flake, Mack, Allen, Bilbray and McMahon have all come out against it. Of these candidates, Flake and Bilbray support SB 1070, Arizona's notorious "papers please" law, with Heller saying that he wanted to use it as a model for Nevada. Allen and Bilbray have gone so far as to say that they want to build a border fence, with Allen going a step further and pushing for an amendment to end birthright citizenship.

Right now, Romney is doing everything he can to escape the immigration debate since he's already boxed himself into positions wildly unpopular with Latinos: he's come out against the DREAM Act and for SB 1070, before even the harshest and least reasonable aspects of the law were struck down by the Supreme Court. The last thing he wants is for that information to make the rounds on the media circuit when Latinos can go directly to the polls before he has a chance to get another spray on tan and talk with Jorge Ramos.

What do all of these bold statements from people like Linda McMahon in states like Connecticut which have few Latinos to be offended by their rhetoric mean for Romney? Most likely an ulcer: Romney's the standard-bearer of a standard that is increasingly tarnished by the crazy things candidates for the Senate and House are saying, such as Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin's comments on rape adding fuel to the "war on women" fire that was so prevalent in the news cycle for a few weeks.

Romney wants Latinos to forget about these issues, trying to win them over with things such as promising to reduce the deficit and improve public schools (neither of which his policies would actually do). With all the out of state, dark money pouring in to every election (and Republicans catching the lion's share of it), candidates are far more independent of their party than they had been previously. For the individual candidates, this means that they don't have to tow the Republican line as much. For Romney, this means that local issues may throw an occasional spark at the powder kegs he's been collecting on immigration. If one catches here or there, it's another headache that will cost him that day as early voting has already began.