Prominent figures in the Republican Party are already distancing themselves from their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, more than a month before his likely loss to President Obama. Even popular Latino leaders in the party, the same leaders invited to speak in front of the Republican National Convention in Tampa just a month earlier, seem to be pulling away from Mitt, and that could cost him serious Latino votes.
As Director of Research Gabriel Sanchez at Latino Decisions writes:
“While it is understandable that GOP candidates facing tough elections would choose to separate themselves from Romney’s controversial statements, not all his co-partisan critics face this electoral pressure. Susana Martinez, the first term Governor of New Mexico is not up for re-election for another two years, and as illustrated below, is very popular with her constituents. Yet the Latina Governor still criticized Romney’s dismissal of almost half the electorate and government programs to help the poor in a recent interview with the Albuquerque Journal: ‘We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else. There is a net that does allow them to be caught and taken care of, whether it be through medical services, whether it be food services, whether it be with funding for apartments, for housing. I think, certainly the fact that New Mexico provides that safety net is a good thing.’ “
For Mitt, Governor Martinez’s words cut deep and couldn’t have come at a worse time for his campaign.
In the weeks since the convention, popularity for the president among Latinos has risen steadily while the Romney campaign has experienced an equal yet opposite decline in its Latino support. As one of the most notable speakers at the national convention, Martinez was being touted as proof of Mitt’s support among informed Latino voters. Now her words seem to directly contradict comments made by the presidential nominee in Boca Raton back in May, when he said that it was wrong of the poorer 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes (because they can’t afford them) to be “dependent on the government” for services like “health care,” “food” and “housing.”
Good for Governor Martinez for standing up and defending such safety net programs — although, it may be that the governor supports such programs because her state has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and if you’re not going to do spit to bring down the poverty level in your state, you damn well better make sure that the poor are at least provided for.
It’s hard to tell how this will effect the Latino electorate. The constantly cosseted undecided voter may not be simply on the fence about the upcoming election; it may be that they’re not even paying attention.
Still, while we know Mitt believes “corporations are people too,” it doesn’t bode well for him when a popular, Republican, Latina governor has to remind him that poor people are people too, too.