Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

How Romney can win over Latino voters

By Ana Navarro, Special to CNN
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Thu April 26, 2012
It won't be easy for Mitt Romney, here in January, to change course on stands he took in the primaries, says Ana Navarro.
It won't be easy for Mitt Romney, here in January, to change course on stands he took in the primaries, says Ana Navarro.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ana Navarro: Polls show Mitt Romney way behind Barack Obama among Latinos
  • She says Romney can't wipe slate clean, erase what he said in the primaries
  • She said he can pivot to show he understands the value of immigration
  • Navarro: Romney needs to address economic issues and court Hispanic voters

Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic co-chairwoman for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.

(CNN) -- Modern technology has made campaigning much easier in some ways. It's now possible to raise millions in small donations through the Internet, host Facebook town halls and galvanize millions of supporters through Twitter. An ad can be released on YouTube and attract enough media coverage to make it worthwhile without spending a dime on TV time.

Technology is also a double-edged sword that's made campaigning more complicated. A candidate's every word can now be captured by modern technology and live in e-perpetuity. There is no such thing as wiping the slate clean after the primary. Candidates should be read their Miranda Rights before beginning a campaign. Anything they say can and will be used against them.

How can Mitt Romney contend with some of the things he said during the primary campaign which will come back to haunt him in the general election? He needs to gracefully pivot. Nowhere is this more true than in his outreach efforts with Hispanics.

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

Romney cannot Hispander (blatant pandering to Hispanics, usually involving mariachi music and merciless butchering of the Spanish language). He cannot flip-flop on immigration (again). He's fought the flip-flopper label for years, and neither the right that still doesn't entirely trust him nor the left that is salivating to defeat him will let him get away with a drastic change of position.

Romney desperately needs to improve his numbers with Latinos. Polls show Romney trailing by as much as an unbelievable 50 percentage points behind President Obama with Hispanic voters. In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain won 31% of the Latino vote. It cost him states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. Unless Romney gets close to 40% of the Latino vote, he can kiss the White House goodbye.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion

Polls also show that immigration is not the most important issue for Latinos. Like other Americans, we are most concerned about the economy. Still, immigration does set a tone. If Latinos perceive a candidate as anti-immigrant, it can turn them off, period.

So, what's Romney to do? He can't erase the things he's said on immigration. Despite his campaign's efforts, they can't make supporters (or an adviser) like Kris Kobach disappear, and he is as radioactive as Kryptonite in the Latino community.

However, all's not lost. From now until Election Day, when Romney gets asked an immigration question, he needs to start and finish by reminding Latinos that Obama promised, without caveats, to get immigration reform passed in his first year in office.

Navarrette: Why Marco Rubio can't save the GOP

For many Latinos, a person's word is sacred. Romney should unequivocally say that Obama broke his word and dramatically increased deportation rates, causing family separation. He should sound angry and indignant about it. Romney needs to go from playing defense to playing offense on immigration. Hispanics are disillusioned with Obama. He too is vulnerable on the issue but only if Romney exploits that weakness.

Romney has to remain staunchly anti-amnesty and pro-border security but at the same time sound sympathetic and understanding of the desperation of people who often risk their lives crossing a border so they can put food on their family's table. He needs to talk about the benefits of immigration and how the richness of our diversity has made us a stronger country.

If Romney can neutralize the immigration issue by moderating his tone, giving more nuanced answers and taking the offensive against Obama, then he can focus on other issues.

Hispanics are an aspirational people. We seek opportunities to provide a better life to our children. Romney should take every chance to remind Latinos that we have been disproportionately affected by the bad economy. As a group, Hispanics have suffered some of the highest unemployment, foreclosure and poverty rates. If Latinos are asked whether they are better off than four years ago, the answer is "No, señor."

Romney is also going to have to put the time and resources into Hispanic outreach. If he expects to make up the lost ground, Hispanics cannot be an afterthought.

His campaign needs to wake up and go to sleep every night thinking of the Latino vote. They'd be well served to embrace and deploy strong surrogates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Raul Labrador. They speak the language not only literally but culturally. Latinos want to be courted.

Obama has accepted speaking invitations to the NALEO and La Raza conferences. Romney needs to do the same, pronto, and he needs to make it count by delivering memorable speeches.

Come Election Day, I don't know whether Romney is going to do better with Hispanics than the polls indicate or if Obama is going to do worse. Romney needs a lot of both to happen if he wants to move into la Casa Blanca.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT