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Alienating Latinos could cost Romney the election

Mitt Romney speaks campaign rally Saturday Powell Ohio.  |  Evan Vucci~AP

Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally Saturday in Powell, Ohio. | Evan Vucci~AP

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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:05PM

Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have done everything in their power to alienate Latinos, blacks and women. The Republicans run the risk of losing the presidential election because they have become a party of extremists with no tolerance for a more diverse mainstream America.

Latino voters will not forgive Romney for suggesting undocumented immigrants should self-deport. Nor they will let the Republican nominee get away with saying that Arizona is a model for the nation when dealing with illegal immigration.

A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll shows that President Barack Obama leads Romney 63 percent to 28 percent among Latino voters. In 2008, Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote compared with the 31 percent for John McCain.

And it is getting worse for Romney. On Monday, Latino Decisions, in its first weekly tracking poll of Latino registered voters, showed that 65 percent would vote to re-elect Obama while 26 percent prefer Romney.

I guess Romney’s efforts to show Latinos his father was born in Mexico and his son Craig speaks Spanish have not paid off. On Monday, the Republican campaign unveiled a radio ad that features Craig Romney explaining in Spanish who his father really is.

In retrospect, the Republicans missed a huge opportunity to reach out to Latino voters even though they had several things in their favor.

First, Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to pass immigration reform during his first year in office. And he has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president, separating thousands of Latino families.

Romney and the Republicans chose to pursue an extremist Arizona-style immigration policy. Most Americans — including Latino voters — agree with the need to reform a broken immigration system instead of the extreme deport-all approach that Romney and the Republicans have embraced.

Second, the Republicans could have taken advantage of the fact that Latinos were hard hit by the housing crisis and the economic downturn because many work in construction and in the service industry. In fact, most Latino voters consider jobs and the economy the most important issues.

Romney has yet to convince Latinos and others that he can turn the economy around. Knowing that Romney loves Costco shirts will do little to change his image as a wealthy businessman who has little or no connection with what the working class has gone through since the recession hit.

Romney and the Republicans are not only in trouble with Latinos. The same NBC-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll shows little to no support for Romney among blacks, which could be an embarrassing historic first. And Obama commands a 52 percent to 24 percent lead on issues concerning women.  

These alarming numbers forced fellow Republican Jeb Bush to call on Romney to reach out to a broader audience. And Ana Navarro, McCain’s Latino adviser, said that Romney’s outreach to Latinos “isn’t visible.”

The softer image Romney wants to portray this week in Tampa might come too late.

Advocacy groups have been registering an unprecedented number of Latinos voters nationwide. Just about 12 million Latino voters might go to the polls in November compared with 10 million in the 2008. They just might decide a close election. And it won’t be in favor of Romney.

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