A couple of weeks ago, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman admitted that the GOP must change it’s tune on immigration if it wants to win elections in Latino-heavy states and districts. “We as a party are going to have to make some changes, how we think about immigration, and how we talk about immigration,” advised Whitman, whose campaign was marked by unprecedented outreach to the Latino community.
It turns out her staffers agree. Hector Barajas, who led Latino outreach for Whitman’s gubernatorial race, and Marty Wilson, a campaign manager for Carly Fiorina’s failed Republican Senate bid, are quoted in the Wall Street Journal today saying that Republicans who don’t incorporate Latino outreach into their campaigns risk “political suicide.” Yet, according to Wilson, the GOP has an even bigger problem: “[Latino] folks don’t like us [Republicans] very much” and that’s largely due to the party’s immigration platform.
Latinos had good reasons not to like the candidates who Barajas and Wilson worked for. Fiorina supported Arizona’s immigration law, SB-1070, and believed that “[i]t isn’t time to have that conversation” on legalizing immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform.
Whitman spent an unprecedented amount of money on Latino outreach. Yet she opted to say one thing in English, and something completely different in Spanish. Ultimately she couldn’t escape the “tough as nails” on immigration persona that served her well during the Republican primary or the undocumented housekeeper who claimed that Whitman hired and exploited her.
Yet, Barajas and Wilson “see an opening.” As Obama faces sharp criticism from some Latino and immigration advocates for ramping up deportations. Barajas has responded by advising the GOP “to train Spanish-speaking representatives to woo Latino voters by talking about Republican ideas for improving the economy through easing regulations and lowering taxes as well as promoting charter schools, areas where GOP views may be likelier to resonate with Latinos.”
Those who are pressuring Obama to use his authority to halt the deportations of undocumented youth and people with children who are U.S. citizens have warned the White House about how the Obama administration’s immigration policies might hurt the President’s prospects in 2012. Yet, others in the Latino community have questioned whether that tactic might ultimately hurt Latinos more than it helps.