Despite highlighting what many consider harsh immigration rhetoric during Monday's South Carolina Republican debate, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s message of “opportunity for all through economic growth” could appeal to Latino voters nationwide. This demographic has become increasingly more concerned about the economy and jobs than they are about immigration debates.
The first test of this strategy will be in the upcoming Florida Republican primary, where Romney leads not only his Republican rivals but also President Barack Obama, albeit by a narrow margin.
However, the Sunshine state’s 1.5 million Latino voters are evenly split between Romney and Obama. A decisive Romney win among this demographic in the upcoming primary would lend his campaign some momentum among an increasingly important voting bloc that could tip the balance on his favor and deliver the swing state’s 27 electoral votes come November.
Romney is seizing this opportunity by highlighting his Hispanic origins and running a surprisingly not-awkward ad in Spanish (“Nosotros”), fluently narrated by his son Craig who touts the former governor of Massachusetts’ private sector experience and alleged strong national security credentials. These are issues the Romney campaign hopes will resonate with Florida Latino voters, most of whom are of Cuban descent.
Romney’s Latino quest, however, has been mocked online, most infamously by “Mexican Mitt Romney” (@MexicanMitt), a Twitter fake alter ego that mixes ethnic humor with political critique (“Corporations are peoples, my amigos!”). Mexican Mitt Romney is an apparent attempt to highlight the Republican front-runner’s supposed disconnect with the broader Latino electorate and its culture. But, if properly addressed by the Romney campaign with a genuine and thorough Hispanic strategy, the viral prank could actually help him by introducing him to Latinos, for whom he is still largely unknown.
This could present the business man an opportunity, since it’s much easier introducing yourself than trying to change negative perceptions. If Romney sticks to his message of opportunity for all through economic growth, and makes the case to Hispanics that he’s the candidate whose experience equips him best to fix the economy, then he’ll have a shot at the Latino vote.
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