(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy Father’s Day to all! What a week in politics, including the emergence of a “mystery man” in the GOP vice presidential sweepstakes! More on that in a moment! Let’s get right to some observations:
“The Latin Beat” – President Obama’s Executive Order on Friday not to deport illegal immigrant children who were brought here by their parents is a big deal. It tells you just how important Hispanic voters will be in this election. But what the President did was a gamble, not a guarantee. It galvanized supporters and opponents alike.
“By the Numbers” – According to Roper Polling, Senator Obama won the Hispanic vote 67 to 31 percent over Senator John McCain in 2008. But in 2004 the gap was much closer, with John Kerry getting 53 percent to George W. Bush’s 44 percent. So Republicans don’t have to win the majority of Latin voters to win the White House; they just need to close the gap. If Mitt Romney can match George W. Bush among Hispanics in Florida – and across the nation - he can win the Presidency.
“Policy versus Politics?” – Yes, what we are seeing in play this week is about immigration policy; but it is also clearly about politics. The Executive Order is a watered-down version of the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship to this group of young immigrants if they had achieved certain benchmarks, including college or military service. The Executive Order does not do that; but, much like his recent support of gay marriage, this is a clear attempt by Obama to reach out to the youngest voters, who support the Dream Act and gay marriage in large numbers. Youth voters were historically a fickle and unreliable group until they came out in droves for Obama in 2008. Democrats are worried about losing thousands – if not millions - of their votes this time around because of high youth unemployment.
“Check or Checkmate?” – This is a giant political chess game as the two sides battle for the critical Hispanic vote. I think the biggest impact will be on Mitt Romney. I believe President Obama has forced Romney’s hand, and the former Massachusetts Governor will now have to pick a Hispanic running mate. While Governor Susanna Martinez, (R) New Mexico, may be the best option for Romney, I bet he will choose Senator Marco Rubio, (R) Florida. Governor Brian Sandoval, (R) Nevada (pictured above), is the third - and a very intriguing - option. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, (whose wife and children are Hispanic), is a possible long shot, although Democrats would have a field day with a Bush on the ballot. These are the final four on the VP list for Romney. I think everyone else is done!
“The Plusses” – Since I believe Martinez and Rubio are the leading options, you might wonder about their strengths and weaknesses. First, Rubio’s strengths: He might guarantee the GOP wins Florida. He’s much more conservative than the moderate Romney, and that helps solidify the party’s base. And his youth and political resume are similar to candidate Obama’s in 2008, so Democrats would be hard pressed to say he’s too young and too inexperienced.
As for Martinez, here are her strengths: As a woman, she can help close the GOP gender gap, as well as appeal to Hispanics; she has a lengthy record as a state prosecutor, especially on border issues; and, like Rubio, the party base will embrace her as much more conservative than Romney.
“The Minuses” – Rubio may have some weaknesses. While he can deliver Florida, can he help the GOP win back New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado? Rubio is Cuban, while Hispanics in those states are heavily Mexican. The two groups are not unanimous. Martinez might be able to help deliver those three Western States, but can she really help the GOP win Florida? Quite honestly, Republicans really need to win all four of these states – plus Ohio - to win back the White House.
“Trivial Pursuit” - Speaking of Ohio, here’s a little tidbit that might change everything. Brian Sandoval, the Hispanic Republican Governor of Nevada, graduated from the Ohio State University College of Law. While that means little nationally, it could give the GOP a slight edge in Ohio, the state that will likely decide our next President, as it did in 2004. The Ohio State alumni network is huge and influential in the Buckeye State. Just keep this bit of alumni trivia and intrigue in the back of your mind. It may pay off!
“It’s Still All About the Economy” – While a lot of today’s observations centered on the immigration debate and President Obama’s Executive Order Friday, I still am firmly convinced this entire election remains about the economy. While the national unemployment rate is at 8.2 percent, the Hispanic unemployment rate is at 11 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for Hispanics ages 16 through 19 is a whopping 30 percent. These numbers could be decisive in November.
As always, please leave your questions and comments at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com