Posted on October 25, 2010

GOP Latinos Poised for Big Wins, But Party’s Tough Immigration Stance Is a Hurdle

Philip Rucker, Washington Post, October 21, 2010

Turn on the television in any state near the border with Mexico, and before long you’ll see a Republican campaign ad that looks something like this one, which ran here earlier this year: “I’m standing in New Mexico,” the candidate says, “and on the other side of that fence is the murder capital of the world.” A picture of armed police flashes across the screen. “When crime spills over, I prosecute.”

What makes this particular spot unusual is the name of the candidate who made it: Susana Martinez. Like many Republicans, New Mexico’s candidate for governor is taking advantage of voters’ anger over illegal immigration. She has pledged to go after undocumented workers and make it illegal for them to obtain driver’s licenses. She defends Arizona’s right to pass its controversial new law targeting illegals, and she is a vocal supporter of ending sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants who are arrested for committing crimes.


Martinez is one of a trio of Latino Republicans poised to win high office this year in part by running on an anti-immigration platform. In Florida, Senate candidate Marco Rubio is ahead of Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist. And in Nevada, gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval is leading Democrat Rory Reid.

If they win, Martinez, Rubio and Sandoval would make up a high-profile triumvirate that Republicans hope will help the party woo increasingly influential Latino voters. The nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc–nearly half the voters in New Mexico, for instance, are of Latino origin–has largely shunned the GOP in recent years.

Yet those Republican hopes may be difficult to realize, if only because the GOP’s anti-immigration rhetoric is a primary reason Latinos have turned away from the party.


Republican strategists acknowledge that the tone of the immigration debate has hurt the party among many Hispanics. {snip}

For the GOP, the more discouraging finding may be that just 6 percent of those polled said they see the Republican Party as more concerned about Latinos than the Democratic Party.


Yet Democrats say Martinez, Rubio and Sandoval are trying to have it both ways–trumpeting their Hispanic heritage while embracing policies that work against fellow Latinos.


This is how Martinez hopes Latino voters will see her–not as a crusader against illegal immigration, but as an American success story.