Immigration reform: Will it win Republicans any new Hispanic votes?
Many on the left and right argue that even if Republicans go along with a comprehensive immigration reform bill, they're still unlikely to win much in the way of Hispanic support.
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Nor is it just support for bigger government drawing Hispanics to the Democrats. Over at National Journal, Michael Catalini points out that pre-election polling showed Latinos preferred President Obama over Mitt Romney on everything from the economy to foreign policy to women's issues. He adds: "Even on social issues where there is perceived to be a natural fit among religious Hispanic voters and the GOP, a divide exists. A majority of Hispanic voters now back gay marriage, according to a Pew Research Center Poll, for instance."Skip to next paragraph
Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.
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Increasingly, this argument – that passing a comprehensive immigration bill isn't likely to help Republicans win over Hispanic voters – is being echoed by those on the right who oppose reform.
Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, in an interview Tuesday with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), said he saw little political upside for Republicans in offering a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, but a potentially huge benefit for Democrats, asking: "If 70 percent of the Hispanic vote went Republican, do you think the Democrats would be for any part of this legislation?"
So who's right? Those arguing that Republicans need to pass immigration reform because they need to win more Hispanic support, or those arguing that the bill won't really do anything to achieve that goal?
Frankly, probably both. Immigration reform alone won't create a new generation of Republican Hispanics. But for the GOP to continue to be seen as the party that's blocking reform is a political liability that Republicans can't afford any longer. And even if a bill only moves a relatively small number of votes in the short term, it still could be an essential component of a longer-term image makeover for the GOP, into a party that's more inclusive and minority-friendly.
As Senator Rubio, one of the group of eight senators working together to craft a bill, told Limbaugh: "Our argument about limited government is always harder to sell than a government program." But by getting the immigration issue out of the way, Republicans may have an easier time reaching out to Hispanics on economic matters – where Rubio believes there is a great deal of natural sympathy.
"I see it every day firsthand from people that have been here about eight to 10 years," he said. "All of a sudden, they have their own business, they have a bunch of permits that they have to comply with, a bunch of complicated laws. Their taxes just went up a couple of weeks ago even though President Obama has been saying it's only gonna go up on the rich – and the light bulb is going off that ... Big Government means less opportunity for them."
If nothing else, passing immigration reform may create enough goodwill to give Republicans like Rubio a better chance to try to sell that vision.
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