Say it isn’t so, Rupert: Romney Going Negative on HispanicLatinos

Regular readers of this blog know that some weeks ago I wrote that the Romney campaign might have decided tactically to give up on the HispanicLatino vote.  Nothing otherwise explains Romney’s lame performance at the NALEO conference in Orlando three weeks ago. I suggested that Romney might now allow his friends at the SuperPacs to run an anti-HispanicLatino strategy in selected states to whip up working class whites a la Willie Horton to make up for any lost share in traditional GOP HispanicLatino support.

A story in The Washington Post about a tweet by Rupert Murdoch supports my suspicion.  “Murdoch was among 50 people who met with the former Massachusetts governor at the Union League Club in New York City (last week)….At the meeting, Murdoch pressed Romney and his aides to get tougher on Obama and asked about Romney’s stance on immigration. He later tweeted his thoughts in response to a follower who said Romney has brains but needs more stomach and heart…(Murdoch tweeted): ‘Romney has all these and more, but just to see more fight. And Hispanics a surrender to O. Cn not afford, hurts senate too.’”

Murdoch’s disjointed, contorted tweet implies that he walked away from the meeting with the impression that Romney has surrendered HispanicLatinos to President Obama, something Murdoch feels Romney cannot afford to do.  But trailing 68-24 percent among HispanicLatinos in the polls, Romney might feel he has no option but to revert to a strategy that attracts voters scared and anxious about the economy and the nation’s new demography.

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The Education of Marco Rubio

A friend of mine called to yell at me about Wednesday’s blog on Marco Rubio, whom, my friend supposed, I was defending.  Well I was, in part.

We cannot live in a nation in which people bend to the fringe, in this case the same whacko-birthers who would disagree with Christ Himself if he appeared and told them President Obama is a citizen and is legally entitled to hold his office, having won the votes of more than 69 million of his fellow Americans in a fair election.

When does this nuttiness end?  Now, because a senator’s parents were born outside the United States he cannot be Vice President or President?  Nonsense.  The other side of me, however, disdains the politician who wants to have it both ways – and Rubio clearly does.  But there is much more to the story.

Note: the author served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

In conveying the idea that he is part of the Cuban exile community that fled Castro when in fact his parents departed Cuba for purely economic reasons, Rubio spun the kind of narrative that candidates for high office require.  But his pushing back is against The Washington Post, whose editors published the story that now threatens to ensnare Rubio in his own deception – and not the birthers.

In so doing, Rubio might not be worthy for higher office because he does not appreciate the larger truth:  That the birther movement is the angry expression of the part of the nation’s population that is reacting to its new demography.

Rubio evidently does not realize that throughout the country too many of his fellow party members, like the birthers, are reacting to the nation’s changing demographics in the kind of negative, predictable ways that good leaders would decry – except that Rubio does not.  Yet large segments of his party seek to diminish HispanicLatinos and their standing.  For that same reason, any of the Republican presidential candidates who have not denounced the birthers are giving aid and comfort to anti-HispanicLatino sentiment. The promise of young and talented men and women like Rubio is that they might be able to help the nation transition into a new chapter in its life, not enable the crazies.

However the Post might confront one important HispanicLatino with lofty aspirations, it is not as damaging as the actions of Republican-controlled legislatures passing real laws that push minorities back into the 1950’s with regressive new laws on voter registration and identification that will restrict the very freedoms at the ballot box that Rubio’s parents did not enjoy in the days of the military dictatorship that preceded the Castro regime.  Republicans in states they control are slashing education budgets and in the process myopically crippling America’s future.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke at the Reagan Library last month in California, I thought I saw its former governor, Pete Wilson, sitting on the front row.  Wilson was the man who in his re-election bid in 1994 ushered in the modern-day reaction against HispanicLatinos that has now swept the nation.  I wonder if Wilson was in the room at the same library in August when Marco Rubio gave his own coming-out address that, no, by no means, was meant to signal that, yes, yes, he is very interested in being on the national ticket.

Rubio is very much eligible to be Vice President of the United States.  But he might not be qualified for the demands of our times.  Nevertheless, his rights should be defended.  Too bad he cannot bring himself to do the same for others.

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From Castro to Rubio: The Attack of the Birthers

So what to make of Marco Rubio’s problem.  First, to his defense:  Some reason other than respect for the Constitution must motivate the attack of the birthers who believe he is not eligible to be vice president.  They think that Rubio’s parents being born in Cuba disqualifies the Republican U.S. senator from Florida from being nominated by his party.  But, of course, anyone born in the country can run for office – any office.

The trouble brewing for Rubio is not the whacko crowd.  Yet even someone already being compared to Ronald Reagan can have an issue or two, and one of Rubio’s is that he misstated when his parents emigrated from Cuba.  It seems that he has wanted people to believe that they were part of the exiles who fled communism and Fidel Castro, who took power in 1959 – except that his parents had left in 1956, when Fidel was in Mexico in exile reorganizing and trying to find support for his revolution.

The facts do not add up for Marco.  But they do add up rather nicely for others, some of whom could easily be found in the Democratic White House or in the camps of some of his Republican rivals.  They know that Rubio is running for vice president.  Anyone who does not believe it does not know how this works, despite his denials as late as this week.

For the White House and his rivals, Marco Rubio would be a nightmare.  For President Obama, the Republican spin machine is capable of convincing enough HispanicLatinos that the GOP better suits their interests – enough to tip Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia and perhaps New Jersey but certainly Florida.  For Rubio’s potential rivals for the vice presidency within the party, they already face GOP strategists who want to balance their party’s anti-immigration and anti-HispanicLatino rhetoric with a telegenic HispanicLatino on the ticket who is the son of immigrant parents.

The odds for Rubio’s selection most likely are tied to how the economy performs.  If it, as expected, does not improve by late next year and Obama’s standing in the polls remains wretched, Rubio’s chances diminish.  But if Obama is within striking distance and the GOP senses that Democrats have done a good job organizing the HispanicLatino infrastructure, Rubio will be on the ticket.  It is an ironic paradox.   The more effective Democrats are at organizing the HispanicLatino vote, the greater the chance that the GOP will choose Rubio.

So it is to the White House’s advantage to cripple Rubio now.  Other parties interested in waylaying Rubio easily could be supporters of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.  After lightning struck Sarah Palin in 2008, the list of would-be GOP vice presidential hopefuls could run into the dozens.  Thus the fight is on, and Rubio’s current problems are significant – because he has significant opponents.

Rubio’s supporters have their work cut out for them and they should invest some time and energy to see if any former Presidents or Vice Presidents had parents born outside the United States.

After that, they can start to figure out how these many years later they can corral enough voters of Mexican descent who make up almost 65 percent of the HispanicLatino population to support his revolutionary candidacy.

Note:  Next week, a more detailed essay on the 2012 election will be available on this website.

Blogs published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or invariably in between.