The president’s El Paso speech on immigration may have been, as Bryan Preston put it, “a flop,” but that blogger did note the real reason the Democrat traveled to the Lone Star State: “He is pushing this issue now purely for politics. He is playing Hispanic voters for suckers while the national economy melts down, the way Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned.”
Obama is making a major push for Latino voters. They may well be the key to the 2012 election. He hosted a group of Latino celebrities earlier this month at the White House, trying to shore up his support in a group with whom he has lost the level of enthusiasm he enjoyed in 2008:
Mr. Obama won 67% of Latino voters in 2008, compared with 31% for John McCain. Within the past year, however, Mr. Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos have slumped. In March, 54% of voter-aged Latinos polled said they approved of Mr. Obama’s job performance, down from 59% in February and far below the 82% peak in May 2009, according to a Gallup poll.
That 54% nearly perfectly matches John Kerry’s share (53%) of the Latino vote in 2004. And given how Obama is slipping among non-Hispanic white voters, he’ll need to do better than that to maintain his majority in 2012. The president is really in trouble if there is the same gap between his reelect number among Latinos and their approval of his performance as there is between the same numbers among all Americans.
Hispanics aren’t monolithic, he says, but all immigrants—”the newly arrived and the second generation”—share one trait: “They’re aspirational.” Conservative candidates, therefore, should promote “policies that reward people who are aspirational.” That’s what he did, and 60% of Democratic Hispanic voters supported his re-election in 2002, he says. Hispanic voters are growing in number, Mr. Bush points out, and “they are increasingly the swing voters in the swing states.”
No wonder the Democratic incumbent is pressing so hard for their support.
UPDATE: In his must-read column yesterday, Charles Krauthammer offers this insight about the president’s El Paso speech, “El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.“