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June 9, 2011, 9:41 a.m.

As part of their nat’l poll of adults, CBS News con­duc­ted an over­sample of Tea Party sup­port­ers. They then presen­ted demo­graph­ic data of that over­sample. The poll was con­duc­ted 10/1-5, and the over­sample con­sisted of 429 adults who IDed them­selves as sup­port­ers of the Tea Party move­ment; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.7% (re­lease, 10/7).

- Now 4/12 Men 58% 59% Wo­men 42 41 - Now 4/12 Age 18-29 9% 7% Age 30-44 24 16 Age 45-64 35 46 Age 65+ 31 29 - Now 4/12 White 93% 89% Black 2 1 Asi­an 1 1 Oth­er 3 6 - Now 4/12 North­east 19% 18% Mid­w­est 25 22 South 34 36 West 22 25 - Now 4/12 H.S. or less 35% 29% Some col­lege 28 33 Col­lege grad 28 37 - Now 4/12 Un­der $30K 18% 18% $50K + 59 53 $100K + 16 20 - Now 4/12 GOP­er 53% 54% Dem 6 5 In­die 41 41 - Now 4/12 Lib­er­al 4% 4% Mod­er­ate 23 20 Con­ser­vat­ive 73 73 - Now 4/12 Evan­gel­ic­al 45% 39% - Now 4/12 Prot­est­ant 64% 61% Cath­ol­ic 18 22 Oth­er 8 6 None 8 7

It’s un­clear wheth­er the life­line that Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., is of­fer­ing Mitt Rom­ney is long enough to lift the pre­sumptive Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee from the hole he dug with His­pan­ic voters dur­ing the primary race. But Rom­ney’s odds of ex­tric­at­ing him­self will al­most cer­tainly im­prove if he ac­cepts, rather than re­jects, Ru­bio’s help.

Ru­bio’s life­line is the al­tern­at­ive he is for­mu­lat­ing to the Dream Act backed by Pres­id­ent Obama and most con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats. Their pro­pos­al would al­low the chil­dren of il­leg­al im­mig­rants to re­main leg­ally in the U.S. and even­tu­ally to ob­tain cit­izen­ship if they serve in the mil­it­ary or at­tend col­lege. Ru­bio’s ver­sion, which he will likely in­tro­duce this sum­mer, would in­stead provide to these young people non­im­mig­rant work visas that would al­low them to re­main leg­ally in the U.S. but would not guar­an­tee them cit­izen­ship. Sig­ni­fic­antly, though, Ru­bio’s ap­proach as he has de­scribed it would not pre­clude those chil­dren from fol­low­ing the same path­ways to cit­izen­ship avail­able to oth­ers hold­ing that type of visa, such as mar­ry­ing an Amer­ic­an cit­izen or re­ceiv­ing spon­sor­ship from an em­ploy­er.

Rom­ney re­mained non­com­mit­tal about Ru­bio’s pro­pos­al on Monday as the two men cam­paigned to­geth­er in Pennsylvania. Al­though he didn’t cri­ti­cize Ru­bio’s ini­ti­at­ive, neither did he say any­thing that might boost the sen­at­or’s on­go­ing ef­forts to build sup­port with con­ser­vat­ives and oth­er Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans. Rom­ney’s lan­guage was tep­id enough to dis­ap­point and worry some in the party who hope that the GOP will rally around the pro­pos­al.

Even if Rom­ney sup­ports Ru­bio’s le­gis­la­tion, that by it­self is un­likely to undo all of the dam­age the former Mas­sachu­setts gov­ernor suffered with His­pan­ic voters dur­ing the GOP primar­ies, when he used im­mig­ra­tion as a club to un­der­mine his rivals’ con­ser­vat­ive cre­den­tials. In that ef­fort, he pledged to veto the Demo­crat­ic-ver­sion of the Dream Act; praised the tough Ari­zona im­mig­ra­tion-en­force­ment law (and said he would have dropped the fed­er­al law­suit against it that the Su­preme Court heard this week); and de­nounced any path­way to cit­izen­ship for il­leg­al im­mig­rants. In­stead, he said, he would pres­sure the es­tim­ated 11 mil­lion il­leg­al im­mig­rants to “self-de­port” by stiff­en­ing en­force­ment of laws against hir­ing and aid­ing them.

The ef­fect of all those pro­pos­als is evid­ent in re­cent polls show­ing Obama, when matched against Rom­ney, equal­ing (or ex­ceed­ing) the two-thirds of the His­pan­ic vote that he won in 2008. In sev­er­al of those sur­veys (such as last week’s Uni­versity of Phoenix/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll), Obama’s share of the vote among Lati­nos not­ably ex­ceeds his ap­prov­al rat­ing with them. That’s a telling meas­ure of how much Rom­ney has ali­en­ated those voters, be­cause it’s un­usu­al for a pres­id­ent to poll much above his ap­prov­al rat­ing with any group. Obama’s cur­rent stand­ing also rep­res­ents a re­cov­ery from the Demo­crats’ de­cline with His­pan­ics in the 2010 elec­tion. While Lati­nos are dis­ap­poin­ted about the eco­nomy and dis­en­chanted with Obama for not stress­ing im­mig­ra­tion re­form, “Re­pub­lic­ans have to ad­opt a tone that clearly views His­pan­ics as a part of a cen­ter-right co­ali­tion and be very ag­gress­ive in their ef­forts to reach out,” says GOP poll­ster Whit Ayres, who ad­vises the right-lean­ing His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Net­work.

Ru­bio isn’t for­mu­lat­ing his bill to be­ne­fit Rom­ney. But for Rom­ney to em­brace it would send “a very im­port­ant sig­nal to His­pan­ic voters,” Ayres ar­gues. It could also align Rom­ney with groups hold­ing sub­stan­tial cred­ib­il­ity in that com­munity. Pub­licly, im­mig­rant-rights groups gen­er­ally ar­gue that Ru­bio’s concept doesn’t go far enough be­cause it lacks a guar­an­teed path­way to cit­izen­ship for the young people in­volved. But private con­ver­sa­tions already un­der way sug­gest that Ru­bio’s concept could di­vide Demo­crats and at­tract sig­ni­fic­ant sup­port among im­mig­ra­tion ad­voc­ates, at least as a start­ing point for dis­cus­sion and per­haps even as the en­d­point of an agree­ment. “If the concept as he has laid it out is trans­lated in­to de­cent le­gis­la­tion and he brings Re­pub­lic­an sup­port to the table, it’s a game changer,” said Frank Sharry, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the pro-im­mig­ra­tion re­form group Amer­ica’s Voice.

Ru­bio’s abil­ity to de­liv­er on the second half of Sharry’s equa­tion — at­tract­ing oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans — re­mains un­cer­tain. The sen­at­or’s sup­port­ers take heart from the dogs that aren’t bark­ing yet on the right. “Giv­en how much cov­er­age this po­ten­tial bill has re­ceived “¦ so far, at least, there have been very, very few con­ser­vat­ive voices who have sprung up to cri­ti­cize it,” one Ru­bio ad­viser said. The one ex­cep­tion is Kris Kobach, the hard-line Kan­sas sec­ret­ary of state, who Rom­ney earli­er wel­comed as an ad­viser but has lately tried to dis­tance him­self from.

In Ayres’s polling for the His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Net­work, most rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans sup­por­ted Ru­bio’s ap­proach. But Kobach has poin­tedly re­af­firmed his op­pos­i­tion to any pro­gram that provides leg­al status to those who ar­rived il­leg­ally, even though he hasn’t en­tirely closed the door on Ru­bio’s ap­proach. That sug­gests oth­er con­ser­vat­ives may yet re­coil at it as well. If that pro­spect de­ters Rom­ney from en­dors­ing Ru­bio’s plan, such a pub­lic snub would hobble the sen­at­or’s ef­fort to win GOP sup­port and sim­ul­tan­eously deep­en Rom­ney’s prob­lems with His­pan­ic voters. It would also leave Rom­ney vi­ol­at­ing one of the old­est rules in polit­ics: When you’re in a hole, stop dig­ging. 

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