By Craig Robinson
As soon as the media reported that President Obama had been re-elected, they turned their attention to what ails the GOP. It’s a common occurrence that we Republicans have come to know all to well. We got a bit of a respite after the 2010 midterm election, but even still, the media was obsessed about the Tea Party movement, and not in a favorable way.
Instead of a discussion about the merits of the Republican nominee and the strategy that his campaign employed in the general election, the media is fixated gender, ethnicity, and abortion policy. The message they all trumpet is the same – if the GOP doesn’t pander to these specific voting demographics it, will be doomed in future presidential elections.
Ironically, some of the same political consultants who in one way or another advised the Romney campaign are the same ones who have been bolstering the media’s quadrennial examination of the GOP. Like the media, they believe the reason for Mitt Romney’s demise was that he was pushed too far to the right on social issues and immigration in the primary.
Exit polls showed that Romney lost the Latino vote by a 71 to 27 percent margin nationally. The 44 percent spread between President Obama and Romney was the largest ever in a presidential election. Romney’s share of the Latino vote is down from the 31 percent that McCain received in 2008. George W. Bush garnered 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000, and 40 percent in 2004.
Latino votes also made up a larger percentage of the overall over vote than ever before. The Latino vote has gone from 6 percent in 2000, to 7 percent in 2004, to 9 percent in 2008, to 10 percent of all U.S. voters in 2012. While it is important to take seriously a growing segment of the electorate, it could also be said that the GOP’s problems with Latino voters has been blown out of proportion.
Of the nine battleground states, only three – Colorado, Florida, and Nevada – have a significant percentage of Latino voters. The Latino vote in the other six states is 5 percent or less. Every vote matters in a close election, but focusing on just one demographic of the electorate over-generalizes what went right or what went wrong for a campaign.
After comparing the 2012 and 2008 exit polls in key battleground states, one has to wonder what the big deal is. In Virginia, the Latino vote is basically unchanged. Romney lost Latinos by a 64/33 margin, which is similar to Obama’s 65/34 margin over McCain. The other states where Latino voters represent 5 percent, most likely also held form from 2008. We don’t know for sure because the sample size in those states was two small to determine the margin between the candidates.
There is a slight change in the numbers from Colorado, Florida and Nevada. In Colorado, President Obama’s margin with Latino voters increased from 61/38 in 2008 to 75/23 in 2012. Florida saw less of a change. In 2008, Obama carried Latinos 57/42 over McCain. In 2012, Obama’s margin with Latinos increased to 60/39. In Nevada, Obama carried Latino voters 71/24 in 2008, and by 76/22 in 2012.
It’s important to note is that John McCain was an outspoken advocate of comprehensive immigration reform. Romney, on the other hand, is being criticized for being too extreme on the issue, yet the difference between the two of them isn’t all that significant. Furthermore, it should be noted that the mainstream media is also not accurately portraying Romney as an immigration hawk either.
Yes, Romney spoke about “self deportation” in a primary debate, but the idea that if jobs don’t exist for people in this country illegally, they will look elsewhere, is not all that controversial. If allowing illegal immigrants to take American jobs is the position of the Democratic Party, Republicans should have run on the issue, especially with high unemployment rates and sluggish economy.
Still, the media’s attempt to make Romney the immigration boogieman following the election is laughable to anyone who closely watched the campaign. The Republican National Convention pandered to Latino voters. The GOP’s Latino elected officials dominated the primetime speaking slots, and one of Romney’s sons even addressed the convention delegates in Spanish.
After clinching the Republican nomination in late spring, Romney refused to weigh in on President Obama’s executive order that granted temporary status to hundreds of thousands illegal immigrants. The Obama campaign was so frustrated with Romney’s refusal to take a stand on the issue they released a 90-second web ad showing Romney refusing to tell reporters where he stands on the issue.
Sorry, but Mitt Romney is just not the immigration hawk he is being made out to be. In fact, immigration policy was basically ignored in the general election campaign. The attempt to use the exit polls showing Romney struggling with Latino voters is either an attempt by the media and the left to further divide the Republican Party, or these polls are being used as a scapegoat by those associated with the Romney campaign, because the last thing a political consultant ever does is point the finger at themselves.
Capitulating on issues in hopes of making political gains isn’t as easy as the media seems to think it is. In an attempt to be viewed as more compassionate, Republicans passed a new entitlement program in 2003. Democrats, not Republicans, received the political reward for passing a prescription drug benefit. Bill Clinton attacked Republicans for passing it in his speech at the Democrat National Convention, but Democrats turned around and took credit for expanding the program.
Republicans always seem to stub their toe when they attempt to gain favor with the electorate by passing targeted legislation. While the prescription drug program was suppose to help Republicans make gains with older voters, programs like No Child Left Behind was supposed to help them with urban moms. Neither has worked as intended.
If we are to believe that the results of exit polls are predictive of future political campaign, then it’s the Democrats that should be shaking in their boots, not Republicans. The fastest growing demographic in America is not Latinos. It’s people who have reached retirement age thanks to the baby boom generation.
In state after state, President Obama lost the 65 and older age group by a significant margin. In Florida, Obama lost seniors by a 41/58 margin. The 17-point margin in Florida is up by 8-points from 2008. Obama’s numbers with seniors also got worse in Colorado, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The President even lost the senior vote to Romney in California, yet the media isn’t calling for Democrats to fix their problem with older Americans.
Missing in the analysis of 2012 election is the importance of the messenger. It’s not hard to understand why a corporate candidate like Mitt Romney had a hard time relating to Latino voters. Likewise, it’s easy to understand why Obama’s campaign, which relied more on celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, and Jon Bon Jovi than policy proposals, didn’t appeal to seniors.
In presidential politics, the messenger matters more than the message. President Obama is living proof of that. Republicans would be foolish to chart a course for the future based solely on what the exit polls tell us. The election results tell us more about what people think of Mitt Romney than what they think about his position on any certain issue.
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