Mitt Romney doesn’t need to win the Hispanic vote, much less the African-American vote, but he almost has to succeed in peeling off a respectable number of minority votes. In theory this shouldn’t be too hard, since minorities have been especially hard hit by Obamanomics. The political realities, however, may be somewhat different.
Today Romney addressed the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which ought to be a pretty receptive audience. Here are excerpts from his speech:
At our convention, Governor Martinez described an experience you may find familiar.
At the beginning of her political career, she was a Democrat. As her star began to rise, she and her husband accepted an invitation from two Republicans for lunch. The words “Democrat” and “Republican” never came up. They talked about issues, not about party – How do we keep welfare from becoming a barrier to work? How much government is needed before it becomes a burden to families and small business?
When the lunch was over, she turned to her husband and said “I’ll be darned… we’re Republicans!”
I love hearing stories like that. I am convinced that the Republican Party is the rightful home of Hispanic Americans. …
No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit. While national unemployment is 8.1 percent, Hispanic unemployment is over 10 percent. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office. …
The administration promised us that its policies would have brought unemployment down to 5.4% by now. They have not. Unemployment is still above 8%. And the difference between the 5.4% they promised and the 8% they delivered is 9 million more Americans not working. 9 million.
I expected the President, at his convention, to talk about the unemployed and to unveil a jobs plan. Astonishingly, he did not. …
My plan is premised on the conviction that it is freedom that drives our economy–that free people, creating free enterprises, is what creates good jobs with good wages. Government supports the job creators, but it cannot take their place.
My plan has five steps….
Romney went on to outline his familiar five-point economic plan. I thought that this was a nice touch; I doubt that many Hispanics are particularly eager to borrow more money to support the National Endowment for the Humanities:
I will put the federal government on a track to a balanced budget by eliminating programs that are not absolutely essential and cutting federal subsidies for things like Amtrak, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. I like some of these things but we just can’t afford them. In fact, my test is this–is the program so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?
Romney also emphasized his plan to relieve government pressure on small businesses, which again is particularly relevant to a Hispanic audience. Finally, he spoke about immigration:
Finally, I want to say a word about immigration. Americans may disagree about how to fix our immigration system, but I think we can all agree that it is broken.
For years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have been more interested in playing politics with immigration than with actually fixing it. Candidate Obama said that one of his highest priorities would be to fix immigration in his first year in office. Despite his party having majorities in both houses of Congress, the President never even offered up a bill. Like so many issues confronting our nation, when it comes to immigration, politics has been put ahead of people for too long.
I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system.
We will never achieve a legal immigration system that is fair and efficient if we do not first get control of our borders. I believe we can all agree that what we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration.
I want to make the system far more simple and transparent — you shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to find out how to legally immigrate to the United States. I will shift our diversity visas to instead bring together immediate family members. I will structure our temporary worker visa program so that it meets the needs of our employers. And if someone gets an advanced degree, I want them to stay here, so I’d staple a green card to their diploma.
America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is essential to our economic growth and prosperity. One million immigrants legally enter America every year–the largest number of any country in the world. I like that. I want to preserve our heritage of robust legal immigration. And I want to make sure that those who abide by the law and wait in line to immigrate here legally are not at a disadvantage.
That’s why I oppose amnesty, because amnesty will make it harder, not easier to strengthen our legal immigration system. It’s also why my administration will establish an employment verification system so that every business can know whether the people it hires are legally eligible for employment. If a business cheats, there will be strict penalties for that business.
In the midst of a difficult re-election, President Obama created what he calls a “stopgap measure” for children who were brought here illegally, through no fault of their own.
Instead of playing immigration politics with these children, I will pursue permanent immigration reform, and I will start by ensuring that those who serve in our military have the opportunity to become legal permanent residents of the country they fought to defend. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.
I’ve spoken often about how proud I am of my father. He was born to American parents living in Mexico. When he was five, they left everything behind, and started over in the United States.
My dad grew up poor. But he believed in a country where the circumstances of one’s birth were not a barrier to achievement – a place where hard work could turn dreams into realities. He went from selling paint out of the trunk of his car to becoming the leader of a great car company and the governor of a great state.
My wife Ann’s father was a first generation immigrant. He ended up founding a successful manufacturing company that made components and equipment for ships in the United States Navy.
Many of you in this room have similar stories. That is the American story. It is a story that is told over and over again. It is the story of the American Dream.
The American Dream is not gone; it has just been put a little further from reach. I know what it takes to bring it back….
All in all, that strikes me as a strong pitch. But talking to the Chamber of Commerce by itself won’t do any good. Romney needs to invest the resources to advertise in Hispanic markets, sometimes in Spanish. He has done this to some degree and needs to do more. He also needs to invest in a grass roots presence that will bring his message to Hispanic neighborhoods. I am no political consultant, but I suspect that Romney can get more bang for his buck with Hispanic voters than just about anywhere else.