McCain’s Play for Latinos

Sen. John McCain has seen his support among Latino voters tank and he needs to do something about it. For years, the GOP’s share of this demographic has been growing and in 2004, George W. Bush garnered 44 percent of the Latino vote. But recent polls have Obama taking 60 percent of Latinos to McCain’s 23 percent. What to do? Florida Sen. Mel Martinez would be an obvious Veep choice for McCain. Florida is worth paying attention to: It is a must-win state for McCain. There is virtually no way he can get to 270 electoral votes without Florida in his column. But, Martinez was born in Cuba and the Constitution reserves the highest office in the land for native born citizens. Otherwise, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would be leading in the polls. McCain should consider finding another Latino to run with him. Normally, I do not think that a Veep choice promises to deliver any demographic. John Edwards could not deliver North Carolina in 2004. Even Martinez, a Cuban-American, might be viewed suspiciously by non-Cuban Hispanics who resent the way U.S. immigration law favors Cubans over all other Hispanic immigrants. But a Latino can do something very valuable: He or she can go on Spanish-language television and radio and make a pitch for votes in Spanish. That might be huge. The problem is: Who? The GOP bench is slim pickings. Immigration reform is the number one issue for Latinos but, like all policy debates, the matter quickly becomes complicated. McCain had earned the respect of Latinos for his willingness to embrace comprehensive immigration reform but during the Republican primaries he had to back off his prior support to avoid alienating the GOP base. Having someone who can make the case to Hispanic voters in their own language that McCain remains supportive of humane immigration reform might help him stem his slide in the polls. McCain is currently touring Latin America which is a smart move. Bush has ignored Latin America, and yet many of America’s economic woes require strengthening the economies of our southern neighbors, to say nothing of the impact such strengthening would have on the immigration flow. But a three-day trip is only a first step. If McCain really wants to win the White House he needs a full-court press among Latinos and it is difficult to see how he can mount one without a homerun like putting a Latino on the ticket. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years ago
In general, I believe that selecting a running mate on the basis of ethnic group (or sex, or religion, or ability to deliver a geographic region) is the height of cynical manipulation of a credulous population. Even if Mr McCain needs the support of the Hispanic population, selecting a Latino as a running mate - absent any other qualifications or philosophical mind-meld with him - will likely be seen as pandering to a segment of the population already somewhat mistrusted because of the illegal immigration crisis. If Mr McCain (or Mr Obama, for that matter) is serious about being President, he will select not a shill whose qualification is the ability to contribute electoral votes, but a seasoned statesman who is also ready to be president and who can mobilize Congressional and popular support for the policies and actions the nation needs in these turbulent times. But I don't see it happening.
10 years ago
Michael Sean Winters: You write: ''...U.S. immigration law favors Cubans over all other Hispanic immigrants.'' The truth is that Cubans who flee are sent back to the 49 year old totalitarian state if they don't touch US land. Is this what you consider favoritism? Hopefully you are not trying to turn Hispanics against each other in order to advance partisan political objectives. Please remember it was Harry Truman, a democrat, who in 1952 recognized Batista as Cuba's legitimate president 15 days after his coup on our constitutional democracy. Accordingly, please try to understand that for many Cubans this is not about McCain vs Obama, or about US Democrats vs US Republicans, but about how we can set straight what was spoiled, with US help, back then. That is what I believe most Cubans in the US care about.

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