By Begala, Paul
Newsweek , Vol. 159, No. 12
Byline: Paul Begala
Have Romney's relentless attacks on Latinos sent the right off an electoral cliff?
For generations, we Texans gave our boys names like William Travis and Sam Houston. Know what the No. 1 name for boys in Texas is today? No, not Rick Perry or George W. For 14 of the last 15 years, it's been Jose.
With Latinos the fastest-growing segment of the population, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Yet the Republican Party seems not to have gotten the memo. Take Mitt Romney, por favor. He was once simpatico with Latinos. But as on so many issues, Romney has put his principles in a blind trust and raced to the furthest fringe of the kook right on immigration. He's comically called for "self-deportation" of the 11 million souls living and working in America without papers. He's also proposed to use Arizona's draconian and controversial immigration law as "a model" for the United States. (Eighty-one percent of Latinos oppose the Arizona immigration law.)
And then there was Romney's brazen move of outflanking Rick Perry from the right, attacking him for signing the Texas DREAM Act, a 2001 law that allowed the foreign-born children of undocumented Texans to attend state universities for in-state tuition. Why did Perry sign the bill? Maybe it was because 94 percent of Republicans in the Texas Legislature--hardly the City Council of Malibu--voted for the law. But Romney doesn't care. He's since doubled down on his Texas attack, pledging to veto the national DREAM Act, labeling it "a handout." (Ninety-one percent of Latino voters support the DREAM Act.)
Now Romney is repeating his anti-Latino flanking move on Rick Santorum, running ads flaying him for voting to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on an appeals court. "This unprovoked attack is another example of how Romney and the Republican Party are pushing the Latino vote to Obama," says Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy. "They forget that Judge Sotomayor is an icon for the Latino community. It's like attacking Martin Luther King or George Washington for blacks and whites."
Falcon is right. George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, helping him narrowly win reelection. John McCain got just 31 percent in 2008 and lost. It's tough to imagine Romney or any other Republican winning without 45 percent of the Latino vote. …