Are Republicans Alienating Voters They Must Win in Pursuit of Voters They Can’t Win?

Is this deja vu all over again? In 2008, John McCain flip-flopped from being a champion of amnesty for illegal aliens to a staunch opponent of amnesty as he sought the Republican presidential nomination, and then flip-flopped again once he had the nomination sewn up.

Fast forward to 2012. Mitt Romney campaigned for the GOP presidential nomination as a resolute no-amnesty-for-illegal-aliens candidate. He went so far as to state unequivocally that, as president, he would veto the DREAM Act.

Now that he has the nomination wrapped up, his, and the Republicans’, resolve appears to be weakening in the apparent belief that pandering on immigration will bring Latino voters flocking to the Republican cause. Romney has brought on former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie whose stance on immigration policy has been McCain-esque. Other prominent Republicans, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, are floating plans for a watered down version of the DREAM Act amnesty in the hope that it will win them favor among Latino voters.

Good politics? Well, for starters, Romney might want to take note of the fact that McCain still goes by the title Senator, not President. All of McCain’s efforts, over many years, to gain amnesty for illegal aliens didn’t make him competitive among Latino voters.

Second, voters tend not to be impressed by “me-too” politics. Why would Romney and the Republicans believe that a hard core group of voters for whom amnesty is a make or break issue will be impressed by their offer of half a loaf, when the other guys are offering the whole loaf and promising them an ice cream sundae for dessert?

Third, while they chase after voters who are never going to be interested in them, they risk alienating voters who might be interested in a meaningful relationship with them – or who at least think they are the lesser of two evils. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Romney already enjoys a 43 percent to 39 percent advantage over President Obama when it comes to immigration policy. But when it comes to independent voters, that advantage is even more pronounced. The poll found that independents favor Romney’s positions by a 48 percent to 33 percent over the president’s. Those are the voters who decided the last election and they are the ones who will decide this one too.

None of this means that both parties shouldn’t be looking for ways to appeal to Latino voters. Ironically, Rubio himself conceded that pandering on immigration isn’t going to work. In an interview with Juan Williams on Fox News, Rubio asserted that the key to winning over Latino voters is to offer them policies geared toward “economic empowerment” and other bread and butter issues.

Whichever party can do that is likely to impress not only Latino voters, but a lot of other voters as well.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    The CRP is also alienating their own candidates. Even when the CRP does find qualified candidates, they will do NOTHING to help that candidate. No money, no endorsements, no meetings, no resources. They even charge the candidate $250 to use “California Republican Party” after their name on the ballot. Is it any wonder a Republican can’t win in CA?

    It’s more important to them that the candidate follow the “rules” they’ve made than getting a truly great candidate elected. They’d rather stay the minority in CA than take a look at HELPING one of their own.

  2. avatar

    Mass immigration – legal and illegal – is a make-or-break issue for the United States. If Romney promises to support policies that would result in better immigration control, I will probably vote for him. If he supports policies designed to pander to open-borders elements, I will vote for a 3rd party candidate just as I did in 2008.

  3. avatar

    It seems to me that there is more than enough blame to go around between both major parties, The US Chamber of Commerce, Religion, Inc., ethnocentric interests, etc. The “Citizens United” decision exacerbates the problem. Even
    legal recipients of Social Security and Medicare who have paid in for decades are suddenly scape-goated as the “bad guys” while the money in the trust funds are looted to buy politicians’ re-election votes. This while there is a press to both “privatize” medicare and social security and “totalize” social security with Mexico.
    A lot of this only makes sense if the S.P.P. (North American Union of Mexico, the USA, and Canada) is completed along with the NAFTA Super Highway between some port in Mexico, through the USA, to Canada with a Mexican run customs house in Kansas City. The Sealous Foundation seems to have the “morning line” on this, but my rep. is in “denial” (no, not that river in Egypt…LOL). Speaking of which, I’ve been hearing far too much about the use of Sharia Law in US Courts.
    Solutions? In my humble opinion Dr Ron Paul is intelligent and has some good ideas, as does T.Boone Pickens. I don’t buy into his anti-social secuirty/medicare stand but the rest of his ideas have some merit. T.Boone likes natural gas (methane) to run trucks and cars. Good. the combustion products are mostly water vapor and a bit of CO2. The combustion products of gasoline (which must be imported from Ahab the Arab) are mostly CO2 and some water vapor. Guess what, with T.Boone’s plan no need for “cap and trade”. Repeal EO13166. Ballots and driver’s license tests should really be printed in ENGLISH, which would save a few million at least. Stop H1-B visas so our recent technical grads could jobs. re: immigration, both legal and illegal: We need more population because?

  4. avatar
    Viet Nam Vet 67-68 on

    Romney is the FLIM FLAM MAN who Flip Flops on every word he says, just like Obama. Both want Amnesty for Illegals and Romney is going to pick Rubio (Mr. Amnesty) for V.P. and I won’t vote for Romney if he picks rubio. I will vote for Ron Paul in a third party if that happens or I will write him in.

  5. avatar

    As a disabled veteran and a victim of both economically and criminally by illegal aliens no amnesty for the lawbreakers who enter the USA illegally and stop rewarding their children with citizenship they are costing us not billions but trillions of dollars over the years.
    For those interested in fighting illegal immigration: Contact me at [email protected]
    To discuss immigration and other issues:
    To send free faxes to our political leaders go to: it fights illegal immigration
    Remember the Alamo!
    I( moved from California it is for all purposes a state of mexico and the illegal immigrants enjoy benefits americans don’t get.

  6. avatar

    Ann Coulter has pointed out that Republicans do not need any Latino votes and thus it is lunacy to pander to them. The presidential election is not 1 race but 50 races. The states with the lion’s share of Latinos, California, and New York are not battleground states. They are already in the win column for the democrats. No likely gain of Latino votes from pandering is going to make any difference to the ballot outcomes in these states.

    In Florida the Latinos are Cubans. They are adamantly opposed to the Obama Administration’s conciliatory policies toward Cuba. They will vote Republican without any pandering.

    The population of Latinos in the remaining states will not affect the outcomes in those states thus no pandering is needed to win those states.

    I trust Ann Coulter’s political expertise on this issue. Republicans forget about courting Latino votes, you don’t need them to win.

    • avatar

      I’ve been saying this all along but the Republicans can’t seem to grasp this concept. If we don’t stop illegals and force them back to their Countries, the day will come when illegals will determine the outcome of elections. Why do you think Obama and Democrats are against voter photo ID?

      • avatar
        Richard Harris on

        YES. YOU’VE GOT IT. The foreigners are taking over our political process.

  7. avatar

    The quest for votes has over-ridden the quest for RIGHT, in both parties. Be true, do the right thing, and whether you win or lose the election, you are worthy of office. Our system is so fouled by money and greed that an honest man couldn’t be elected dog-catcher.

  8. avatar
    michael young on

    Can anybody answer why does the DMV allow illegals to register vehicles without a drivers license. When they are stopped in Virginia , the Police usually allow them to drive from the scene. If an American citizen drives without a license the penalties are severe and damaging. I see Americans riding scooters all over the roads where I live because they do not have a license, while illegal immigrants flood the roads everywhere. How can we take action against this atrocity?

    • avatar

      You are pointing out a very serious problem that occurs whenever you have a minority group which is deemed special. The special minority group ends up enjoying privileges that the ordinary citizen does not. A good example of where this occurs is in Canada where the French speaking minority enjoys special status and privileges that the English speaking majority does not. As you have pointed out it is happening here too.

  9. avatar
    pro legal immigration on

    Here’s an idea: How about we go ahead and pass the Dem’s version of the Dream Act, BUT include a provision in which future US-born children of illegal residents are no longer granted US citizenship?

    • avatar

      No. No. No. We need to end all immigration to this country, legal and illegal. 99.999% of immigrants to this country are poor. They may come here hoping to steal a job from an American, but realizing at the same time that if they don’t get a job they can tap into our system of social programs which are intended to pay bribes to supporters of Democrast party candidates. Immigrants vote Democrat, which is destroying this country. Thus we need to stop all immigration. Dream Act? We don’t need or want these immigrants here. They’ve stolen enough jobs already.

      • avatar

        @Richard Harris
        I totally agree….send them all back and that includes those from the middle east. Besides stealing jobs, they have cost us billions in freebies. Enough is enough. Reagan passed amnesty in the 80s and said this was a one time only benefit…LOL More of the Washington BS..I support e-verify in every state and stiffer penalties for Employers who hire illegal immigrants. Furthermore, I want the borders secured…now that our enemies know how to sneak into the country….

    • avatar
      1965 Immigration Act on

      BAD IDEA. You just don’t get it. The much bigger problem is LEGAL chain migration and birthright citizenship. Most of the posters here, and 100% of the MSM, just don’t get it.

  10. avatar

    I wish politicans would stop pandering period! Like many opposed to illegal immigration, and any potental amnesty for illegal aliens, I am angry and frustrated enough over this issue, don”t insult me evem more by pandering!