But the debate ignored an issue critical to California: immigration.
Romney won the primaries largely because he talked tough on immigration. He painted his main opponents, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, as amnesty wimps. This went over big time with the party’s anti-immigration base.
As longtime Romney enthusiast Ann Coulter wrote last December:
“capitulate on illegal immigration, and the entire country will have the electorate of California. There will be no turning back….
“Massive legal and illegal immigration has already so changed the California electorate that no Republican can be elected statewide anymore. Not so long ago, this was a state that produced great Republican governors and senators like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, S.I. Hayakawa and Pete Wilson.
“If even Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, two bright, attractive, successful female business executives — one pro-life and one pro-choice — can’t win a statewide election in California spending millions of their own dollars in the middle of the 2010 Republican sweep, it’s buenas noches, muchachos.
“Only Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney aren’t trying to sneak through amnesty for illegal aliens.”
By then, Bachmann was not a contender. So that left Romney.
But on Monday, Romney flip-flopped on immigration — again. National Journal reported:
“Mitt Romney’s advisers have long insisted that economic doldrums—not immigration policy—would turn Hispanic voters toward the Republican nominee.“But Romney’s decision to break his silence on allowing young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States reflects a shift in that failing strategy and an implicit admission that the increasingly powerful Hispanic vote could, in part, cost him the election.“After months of mostly stonewalling about President Obama’s order to stop deporting children brought to the United States illegally by their parents, Romney told The Denver Post on Monday that he would not repeal those temporary visas. On Tuesday, his campaign said he would end the program for others if elected president.”
Actually, the Hispanic vote is only about 7 percent of the electorate. It routinely votes about 67 percent Democratic. Assuming Romney’s new position resonates among Hispanics, he might reduce that 67 percent to 60 percent — if he’s lucky. So, he would improve by 7 percentage points. Multiply that (.07) times a 7 percent electorate (.07) and at most he would gain 0.35 percentage points.
Moreover, few of the expected pro-Romney Hispanic switch would be in swing states. Most Hispanics live in big Blue states (California, New York, Illinois) or Texas (Blue state for now). Florida is an exception, because it’s a swing state with a lot of Hispanics. But most Hispanics there are Cubans, for whom there’s already a special law allowing relatives to come here as refugees from Castro’s communism.
Hispanics soon will be a much larger electorate. They’re 16 percent of the population now, but their population is younger, so they have more kids under 18 years old; and many are immigrants, legal and illegal, until they become citizens. But this isn’t the 2024 election; it’s the 2012 election.
Meanwhile, the white (“Anglo”) electorate still is about 65 percent of the national electorate. Probably at least half of them oppose amnesty. How many of them will be offended now that Romney supports amnesty? Probably a lot more than .35 percentage points. Many in Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and other swing states will stay home in disgust on election day.
It’s no wonder his adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said last March after Mitt had wound up his primary victories and secured the nomination, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
Obama could have brought up amnesty as yet another Etch-A-Sketch Romney moment, but the president was napping.
Maybe immigration will come up in a later debate. But for now, this issue crucial especially to California is not even being discussed in this campaign.
(John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is the managing editor for CalWatchdog. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)