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Hispanics would not flock to Marco Rubio as a vice presidential pick

Take it from a Latino voter: The Great Hispanic Hope for the GOP – tea party darling Marco Rubio – is a false hope. Latinos vote issues, not ethnicity, and the junior senator from Florida is out of step on the issues, especially immigration.

By Raul A. Reyes / November 14, 2011



New York

I have a confession to make. In my early twenties, I was marginally interested in politics and sometimes found myself in the voting booth with scant grasp of the candidates or issues. I would scan the ballot for a candidate with a Hispanic surname and blindly vote for them. I used to reason to myself that I was supporting “one of us,” someone from the Latino community.

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Thankfully, those days are over.

Not only am I a more informed voter, it is no longer a novelty to see Latino names on a ballot. So I am baffled by the hoopla over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is being touted as the GOP’s Great Hispanic Hope. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and top Republican strategists all speak of Senator Rubio as a top contender for vice president.

These Republicans see Mr. Rubio as their bridge to Latinos, who have deserted the GOP because of its hardline immigration rhetoric. But trust me, a former ethnic voter: Rubio has limited appeal to Hispanics, and a whole lot of baggage. 

An October poll by Latino Decisions found that immigration reform continues to be the top issue among Hispanics. Yet Rubio supports Arizona’s infamous “papers, please” law. He is against the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented youth who were brought here as children to become citizens if they serve in the military or attend college.

Though Rubio is popular among Cuban-Americans, they constitute only 3.5 percent of Hispanics. His conservative immigration positions will be a hard sell among Mexican-Americans, by far the country’s largest Hispanic population.

When I look at Rubio, I see a charismatic speaker whose actions contradict his words. He supports English-only legislation even as he campaigns in Spanish. He champions limited government, yet supports reauthorizing E-Verify, which would require employers to clear, through a national database, every person who applies for a job.

And although Rubio says that Americans need to live within their means, he has had trouble doing so. Last year, The Wall Street Journal inferred that his financial troubles are “epic,” and he nearly lost one of his homes to foreclosure. He is hardly the best spokesman for the Republican message of fiscal discipline.

Rubio has been compared to President Obama, another relatively young politician who quickly became a rising star within his party. Unlike “No Drama Obama,” however, Rubio seems to attract controversy.

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