President Obama’s campaign pollster, Joel Benenson, on Thursday called Mitt Romney’s immigration policy “pretty harsh’’ and said that Romney's picking Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as his running mate wouldn’t close the Republican Party's gap with Hispanic voters.
Speculation that the Cuban-American senator will top the GOP's vice presidential short list has been running high for months and is bound to increase now that Rubio endorsed Romney, the likely nominee, on Wednesday.
Both Rubio and Romney oppose legislation that would allow undocumented children to become citizens if they attend college or enlist in the military, although in recent weeks both have suggested they would be open to alternative proposals.
“If Mitt Romney puts a Hispanic candidate on the ticket, I don’t think Hispanic voters are are going to look at that and say, Oh, yeah,' and ignore the fact’’ that he opposes the Dream Act, Benenson told reporters gathered at Third Way, a nonpartisan think tank. “If you’ve been espousing the policies they have that are pretty harsh on immigration, to think that you can turn your vote numbers around by putting someone on the ticket because they’re Hispanic’’ won’t work, he said.
Asked about Romney’s biggest vulnerability, Benenson said that the wealthy former corporate executive has been his own worst enemy by showing he is out of touch with ordinary voters.
“Mitt Romney has, kind of through earned media, earned his biggest vulnerability: He is not in touch with the lives of ordinary Americans and doesn’t really care about the struggles they’re facing,’’ Benenson said. “That’s happened in the earned media without much of a campaign coming at him from anyone else.… He had no qualms about bankrupting a company and walking away with millions of dollars.’’
Indiana will be the toughest state for Obama to win again in 2012, Benenson said, adding that repeat victories in North Carolina and Virginia will also be difficult.