Mitt Romney has a plan to lure Latino voters into his camp, and perhaps not surprisingly, it's the same strategy he's employing to win over women, young people, independents, and all other undecided voters. Here's a hint: It's the economy, stupid.
"Did you know that the rate of unemployment among Hispanic Americans rose last month to 11 percent?"Romney said Tuesday during a rally in Fort Worth, Texas. "And that the people in this country that are poor, living in poverty, one out of three are Hispanic American?"
You couldn't blame any Republican who, upon hearing Romney's remarks, may have whispered, "Finally." Indeed, the political chattering class has long wondered: When will Romney, who lags far behind President Obama among Latino voters, signal an aggressive outreach to the country's fastest-growing demographic? And, considering Romney's hard-right stance on illegal immigration made his Republican rivals look "moderate," perhaps the more salient question is: How will Romney sell himself to a group that was often ignored and occasionally vilified during a brutal, prolonged primary contest?
Five months removed from Election Day, it appears we have our answer -- and it's consistent with a campaign that tailors an audience to their candidate's message instead of the other way around. This strategy speaks to a staple of the Romney campaign. Whenever he has encountered a voting bloc with which he's not entirely comfortable, Romney goes back to basics and pounds the one message that compels universal resonance: jobs and the economy. When Romney sold himself to socially conservative Iowans, he spoke about the "moral crisis" of rampant unemployment. When Romney was accused of waging a "war on women," he counter-punched by saying female professionals have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. And when Romney finally offered an olive branch this week to wary Latino voters, he did it on his terms, talking about jobs and the economy rather than immigration and foreign policy.
For the Romney campaign -- and the GOP -- this courtship of Latinos is long overdue. Republican officials have long expressed fears, both privately and publicly, that the party's harsh tone on Hispanic-sensitive issues could permanently alienate a critical section of an ever-diversifying electorate. These concerns hit home especially hard in March, when a Fox News poll showed Obama drubbing Romney among Latino voters, 70% to 14%, and pundits of all political stripes declared Republicans doomed unless they partially closed the glaring gap. Foolishly, Romney devoted little time to this cause in the months that followed, keeping his eyes on the primary prize. By the end of last month Romney had the nomination secured, yet he had invested next to nothing in Spanish-language media buys. Meanwhile, Obama was spending millions of dollars running multiple Spanish-language spots in several Hispanic-heavy swing states. Romney needed to play catch-up, and quickly.