Hispandering: Latino seduction didn’t work for Mitt Romney


Everyone agrees: compared to 2008’s, this U.S. election was decaffeinated, although there were still exciting parts to follow. The pandering to target group voters was one of them. As one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups, hispanics were crucial in the run-up and both Democrats and Republicans spent a great deal of time and money to have them on their side.

In a changing demographics America, Hispandering–trying to reach out Latinos by showing up with Hispanic stars in the campaign, dropping a few words in Spanish in the middle of the speeches–has become a must more than a fashion.

Yet it didn’t work for Mitt Romney. President Obama won 75% of the Hispanic vote, the highest level of support by this group of any presidential candidate. According to an exit poll conducted by Latino Decisions, Hispanics clearly cost GOP candidate the White House. What went wrong?

Painting Latinos as freeloaders benefitting from social programs and entitlements. Mr Romney said in a conference call reported by the New Tork Times that he could not compete with Barack Obama’s “gifts” such as access to healthcare. His words heated the Internet in minutes.

“Romney thinks President gave “gifts” for the Latino vote? Where’s my gift, esse? #PuñetaCoño,” complained a Hispanic Twitter user.

Misunderstanding their priorities: the new generations speak English and are more concerned about jobs, education and the economy than about immigration, according to the polls.

“I cannot say I am 100% happy with Obama but I still gave him my vote because I am grateful for his healthcare reform,” explains Colombian civil rights lawyer John Sanchez. “It will allow people with pre-existing health conditions to have access to care although it won’t be until 2014.”

However, immigration remains a hot topic and the DREAMers–qualified young migrants who might benefit from the Obama Administration’s measure to grant them a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit- are an important lobby. “Latinos in this country only leave the sofa and the soap operas for one thing: immigration,” explains Agostino, a 27-year-old student of Art from Venezuelan and Brazilian origins. “Mitt Romney was extremely offensive when he suggested that undocumented Latinos should get self-deported.”

Romney might not have been the best candidate, after all. “I can tell you we are a strongly conservative community,” says Bernardette McLeroy, from Hispanic Republicans in Action, the biggest and most active Latino GOP organization in Texas. “We are pro family and pro life,” she says. For Mrs McLeroy the best face to represent the party would have been Senator Marco Rubio. This Cuban American from Florida is believed to be GOP’s hope to renew the party and connect with the growing Latino electorate before 2016.

“You can be for legal immigration – you don’t have to be for amnesty – but you also need to understand that we’re speaking about human beings,” Rubio said at the fourth annual Washington Ideas Forum on Thursday. His words gave him momentum on the social networks.

“It seems that GOP’s position on immigration is softening,” said a Latino netizen.

“He can be the bridge to Latinos that the Republican Party needs,” pointed out another.

About the Author

Ana Fuentes
Columnist for El País and a contributor to SER (Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión), was the first editor-in-chief of The Corner. Currently based in Madrid, she has been a correspondent in New York, Beijing and Paris for several international media outlets such as Prisa Radio, Radio Netherlands or CNN en español. Ana holds a degree in Journalism from the Complutense University in Madrid and the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a Master's in Journalism from Spanish newspaper El País.

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