GOP Hopes to Capitalize on Latino Disappointment With Obama

Rob Hotakainen, Miami Herald, February 15, 2010

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While the president carried the Latino vote by large margins 15 months ago, many Republicans are out to capitalize on Latino dissatisfaction with Obama and Washington’s Democratic leaders. They think that could help them immensely in the 2010 elections.

Republican candidates will gain ground from Latinos once Latinos realize “that what the Democrats offer is just a bunch of empty promises,” said Hector Barajas, a communications consultant for the California State Senate Republican Caucus.

He noted that the president spent only about 10 seconds on immigration at the very end of his State of the Union speech last month. Barajas said the issue had been particularly hot on Spanish talk radio ever since Obama gave that speech.

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Jaime Regalado, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute, a nonprofit public-policy center at California State University, Los Angeles, said Democrats, particularly the president, faced “a scary situation.”

“It’s really a colossal hassle for the administration, that there is so much impatience from so many groups–including Latinos–that are hell-bent on having an immigration reform package in 2010, an election year,” he said. “It’s difficult in any season in any year, but this is a very precarious year for Obama.”

Regalado said Republicans were exploiting the issue “with good reason,” because it was a no-win situation for Democrats: They lose votes from Latinos if they don’t come up with a comprehensive solution to immigration, or they lose votes from more conservative members of their base if they do.

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Latinos are gearing up to be big players this fall. Earlier this month, a report by America’s Voice, a group that backs new comprehensive immigration policies, said that immigration could be the deciding factor in as many as 40 congressional races in November.

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“I think the Democratic Party needs to wake up and realize that you can only fool the Latino community for so long,” Barajas said. “There’s a great sense of frustration, there’s a great sense of anger and there’s a big letdown” that will drive more Latinos to the Republican Party.

Regalado said he didn’t believe that Democrats would switch to the Republican Party in big numbers. “What it does threaten is that Latinos stay home” on Election Day, he said.

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