Mitt Romney calls for higher minimum wage. Does it matter?

Mitt Romney is the third GOP presidential candidate from 2012 to call for a higher minimum wage in recent days. But Republicans in Congress have opposed a Democratic effort to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, pauses while speaking at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., March 2013. Romney called on Republicans Friday to raise the minimum wage, going against the congressional leadership of his own party.

Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, called on Republicans Friday to raise the minimum wage, going against the congressional leadership of his own party.

"I think we ought to raise it, because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay, and I think communicating that is important to us," Mr. Romney said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

In recent days, two other Republican presidential hopefuls from 2012 – former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania – have also called for a minimum wage hike. The trend may signal that in presidential politics, some Republicans see the issue as a way to soften the party’s image across a broad electorate.

On MSNBC, Romney linked his support for a higher minimum wage to the GOP’s effort to reach out to working Americans, including Hispanics. Romney lost the Hispanic vote to President Obama, 71 percent to 27 percent.  

“I also believe that key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population, particularly the Hispanic community, that our party will help them get better jobs and better wages,” Romney said.

This wasn’t the first time Romney has called for a higher minimum wage. In January 2012, during his presidential campaign, he said the minimum wage should rise with inflation. But after a conservative backlash, he reversed himself. “There’s probably not a need to raise the minimum wage,” he said on CNBC in March 2012.  

Late last month, the Democratic effort to raise the federal minimum wage gradually from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016 stalled in the Senate. The bill needed 60 votes to advance and fell short, 54 to 42. Only one Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, voted to allow debate on the bill.

Republicans argue that a higher minimum wage would cost jobs, and they call the bill a campaign ploy.

“No matter how Senate Democrats try to spin their support for this bill, the bottom line is this: It could cost up to a million jobs – 17,000 in Kentucky alone,” said Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky. “That’s really the opposite of what Americans expect us to do on jobs.”

Senator McConnell is in a tough reelection battle, including a tea party challenge from the right. Even though his primary challenger has faded, McConnell looks to be taking no chances.

As the midterm elections heat up, chances are Republicans in the House and Senate are mostly locked into their opposition to the Democratic bill. Some blame the Democrats for not being willing to compromise on how big the hike in the minimum wage should be. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada says he won’t budge on the goal of $10.10 an hour.

So regardless of what three former presidential candidates are saying, the issue looks stuck for now. 

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