Photo: Sen. Marco Rubio
Freshman Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) remains a Tea Party favorite and, despite his protests to the contrary, the leading vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2012. Central to Rubio’s appeal is his Cuban-American heritage: some believe it will attract Hispanic voters in key swing states, despite Rubio’s embrace of hardline immigration positions such as his support for mandatory E-Verify and “border security first” approaches, as well as his opposition to the federal DREAM Act.
However, recent revelations about Rubio and related media coverage have started to puncture the myth that the Republicans’ problems with Latino voters can be washed away simply by adding Senator Rubio to the ticket.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The Republican Party’s problems with Latino voters won’t be solved by a new face, only by a new approach, especially on immigration. The immigrant-bashing that is dominating the Republican primary isn’t going to help them reach the 40% threshold of Latino support they need to re-take the White House. And given Marco Rubio’s hard line stands opposing everything from the DREAM Act to comprehensive immigration reform, adding him to the ticket could easily backfire with Latino voters fed up with being told their families and work are neither welcome nor respected in America.”
In a high-profile piece in this weeks Washington Post entitled, “Marco Rubio on national ticket could be risky bet for Republican Party,” reporter Peter Wallsten explains:
Rubio’s role in recent controversies, including a dispute with the country’s biggest Spanish-language television network and new revelations that he had mischaracterized his family’s immigrant story, shows that any GOP bet on his national appeal could be risky. Democrats had already questioned whether a Cuban American who has voiced conservative views on immigration and opposed the historic Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, could appeal to a national Hispanic electorate of which Cubans are just a tiny fraction but have special immigration status. And Rubio’s support in Florida among non-Cuban Hispanics has been far less pronounced than among his fellow Cubans. That ethnic calculus was further complicated by records, reported by The Washington Post last week, showing that Rubio had incorrectly portrayed his parents as exiles who fled Cuba after the rise of Fidel Castro. In fact, their experience more closely resembles that of millions of non-Cuban immigrants: They entered the United States 21 / 2 years before Castro’s ascent for apparent economic reasons.
A new story in POLITICO similarly highlights growing Hispanic criticism of Rubio, noting that Rubio’s family immigration story is actually rooted in economics more than politics, just like millions of other immigrants from Mexico and other countries in Latin America. This makes his hardline stance on various immigration positions all the more misguided. The piece, by Scott Wong, includes reaction from the leading congressional immigrant rights advocate, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who doesn’t understand how Rubio can be:
so anti-immigrant, so xenophobic, so tied to the extremist right wing. You know what I say to him — the immigrants who come here today that you brush aside so easily, I hear your story about your mom and dad. They are the same. They came here to work hard, to sweat and toil in some of the least of the meaningful jobs…His story is that they washed dishes, that they worked in restaurants, that they sweated and they toiled at blue-collar jobs, and I say, ‘You know what, it sounds like the very same people that you want to deny an opportunity in the United States today, and I think it’s kind of shameful.’
As Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, told the Post:
One of the big questions of 2012 is whether putting Marco Rubio on the ticket can help the GOP make up lost ground with Latino voters. Despite being Hispanic, looking at his overall record…he seems remarkably ill-suited to be the one reaching out to the largely Mexican migrant community in the key battleground states.
The Washington Post’s political blogger Greg Sargent boils it all down to a simple question:
Can Rubio really win over Latinos to the GOP ticket, given the party’s immigration rhetoric and opposition to the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice?
Perhaps conservative columnist Ruben Navarrette had the best answer, when he wrote:
Marco Rubio is the Republican Party’s Superman. And, the immigration issue, if not handled correctly, is his kryptonite.