New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Romney: ‘Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign'

ByChris Moody
May 15, 2012, 10:57 AM

— -- Mitt Romney recently name-dropped New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez as a possible pick to be his running mate. But first, the popular state executive may have some things to teach him about outreach to Hispanics.

In an interview with Newsweek's Andrew Romano, Martinez criticized Romney's approach to wooing Hispanic voters during the campaign, in part because of statements during the primary contests in which he said illegal immigrants would "self deport" if incentives were removed to remain in the country illegally.

"'Self-deport?' What the heck does that mean?" Martinez told Romano. "I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there's an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why."

Martinez, who was a Democrat until she switched parties in 1995, went on to say that Republicans should take a more "pragmatic approach" to immigration reform and should be actively seeking to elect Hispanic lawmakers to national office:

Martinez's point is not that Republicans should peddle "amnesty." In New Mexico, she's taken a lot of heat from Latinos for repeatedly pushing to repeal a law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses; she also opposes a standalone DREAM Act, arguing that "it has to be part of a larger plan." She simply believes that a more pragmatic approach will help Republicans in the long run, particularly if it's paired with the sort of issues-based appeal that inspired her to switch parties and a more aggressive campaign to recruit Hispanic candidates for local office. Maybe then the GOP can finally do what she did in her first statewide contest: approach the magic 40 percent mark among Latino voters. That alone would be enough to swing a presidential election.

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