Romney at NALEO: More Damage Control Than Outreach
On the day of Romney's big speech at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) Annual Conference, the media is abuzz with speculation about what, if anything, the Republican nominee-in-waiting can do to get at least a bite of this pivotal demographic. Much of the speculation center's on the possibility of Romney picking Sen. Rubio as his running mate, since there isn't much he can do in terms of policy, having hitched his star to GOP immigrant-bashing.
At WaPo Felicia Sonmez rolls out "Five Things to Watch for" in Romney's remarks, including President Obama's halt of deportations, personal attacks against Obama, a "broader agenda" for immigration reform, how congressional Republicans respond to his remarks and whether or not Romney will take questions from the press.
Short of announcing Rubio or NM Governor Susana Martinez as his running mate, Sonmez's point about the response of congressional Republicans is of interest, more for the down-ballot implications, since Romney's hopes for a significant positive bounce with Latinos are slim and none. As Sonmez puts it,
...Watch to see what Republicans on Capitol Hill do. They're the ones whose support Romney needs most if the GOP is planning a counter-offensive against Obama on immigration reform. Members such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are key when it comes to reaching across the aisle, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are the ones faced with rallying the troops.
The problem here for the GOP is that, what's good for Romney -- in this case more goodwill with Hispanic voters, may not be perceived as a priority by Republican House members who don't see Latino voters as an influential demographic in their districts. In addition, way too many GOP House members have at least flirted with repressive immigration proposals opposed by Hispanic leaders and voters, and not all will give Romney a pass if they think he overrreaches.
It's likely that just showing up gives Romney what cred he is going to get with Latino voters, and, with all that is going on, that won't be much.