How Mitt Romney Could Lure Latinos

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If Obama couldn't enact comprehensive immigration reform with his party in control of Congress for two years, then Latinos – with Democrats now needing to pick up a net 25 seats to regain control of the House this fall – may not have much reason for optimism in a second term.

According to the Latino Decisions poll, 19 percent of Latino voters strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing and another 12 percent disapprove of his work. That means nearly one in three Latinos are unhappy with the president's performance.

"For many Latinos, a person's word is sacred," Navarro said. "Romney should unequivocally say that Obama broke his word and dramatically increased deportation rates, causing family separation. He should sound angry and indignant about it. Romney needs to go from playing defense to playing offense on immigration."

So far, Romney has been playing more defense, with the Obama campaign dubbing him "the most extreme presidential candidate on immigration in modern history," to quote Obama spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain.

However, immigration may ultimately be less of an issue than initially expected. For the first time in decades the number of Mexican immigrants coming to this country has dropped, from nearly 7 million in 2007 to around 6.1 million today, a Pew Hispanic Center study of government data found.

In addition, the anticipated nationwide backlash against Arizona's controversial new immigration law has yet to materialize. When the Supreme Court took up the case last Wednesday, the conservative justices on the court tried to poke holes in the Obama administration's argument that Arizona could not pursue "its own policy" of immigration control because "the Constitution vests exclusive authority over immigration matters with the national government." Justice Antonin Scalia responded that "all that means is that the government can set forth the rules concerning who belongs in this country, but if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona , Arizona has no power?"

Afterward, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the Republican who enacted the law, said, "I feel very confident as I walked out of there that we will get a favorable ruling in late June."

While some make the mistake of thinking that immigration is the only issue that matters to Latinos, it is not. In truth, it is not even the most important issue to Latinos. That would be the economy. When asked what issues are the most important in evaluating the candidates and deciding whom to support in 2012, 36 percent of Latinos said it was fixing the economy, while 24 percent cited immigration reform, according to the Latino Decisions survey.

Latinos have been hit hard by the nation's recent recession. The unemployment rate for Latinos currently sits at 10.3 percent, compared with 8.2 percent for the country's population overall. A majority of Latinos believe that the economic downturn has been harder on their ethnic group than on other Americans, a Pew Hispanic Center survey found.

"Hispanics are an aspirational people," Navarro said. "We seek opportunities to provide a better life to our children. Romney should take every chance to remind Latinos that we have been disproportionately affected by the bad economy."

Before a Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas last October, a single mother of two named Ana – emerging from a cash loans business – said she backed Obama in 2008, but this time around she plans to vote for the eventual GOP nominee instead.

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