Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In order to remain competitive in the general election, John McCain will have to perform a Herculean task: Court the Hispanic vote without alienating the base of the Republican Party.
Maverick McCain is currently viewed with suspicion by both camps. Hispanic immigration activists insist that Mr. McCain's current proposal which emphasizes enforcing the border first and then establishing a temporary worker program is insufficient. On the other hand, many conservatives will not support Mr. McCain if he appears weak on immigration.
Mr. McCain will have difficulty winning a general election without Hispanic support. Their vote is essential in states such as California, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. President Bush was elected in both 2000 and 2004 due in large part to his ability to woo Latinos: he secured 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and 44 percent in 2004. However, since the failure of the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill last year, 57 percent of registered Hispanic voters are now Democrats whereas 23 percent are Republicans.
Hispanics are the nation's largest minority group, consisting of 47 million people or 15 percent of the American population. The electoral clout of Hispanics is diminished by the fact that 44 percent are not citizens and are ineligible to vote. …