As mothers, we know very well the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We also know from consoling our little hijitos when they’ve come home from school after being made fun of, that nothing could be further from the truth. The GOP is now learning this lesson the hard way.
The slew of GOP debates during this election season has underscored incredibly harsh rhetoric that should be of great concern for Republicans. While the candidates and the party hope they are finished with the debates and are one step closer to having a nominee, the damage has been done and their chances of winning the White House in November seem to be fading with every passing day.
In a political cycle that started off with so much enthusiasm and hopes among Republicans that their party was perfectly poised to defeat an incumbent president who just a few short months ago was way below a 50% approval rating, presiding over a painfully slow economic recovery, and where voters are clearly not satisfied with the way things are going, things sure seemed to have taken a dour turn for the GOP.
What changed? For one thing, the economy has taken a turn for the better. Unemployment is going down, businesses are hiring, and the Dow Jones is at an historic high. What’s more, Americans are more optimistic about the economy. Currently, 44% of people say they expect economic conditions to be better a year from now, up from 34% in January and 28% in December, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. And while the economy is not out of the woods yet, Republicans must be careful not to be seen as wishing for bad economic news, or as “talking” down the economy. As such, the positive economic news takes a bite out of the narrative of presumed “frontrunner” Mitt Romney, who has focused on being the pragmatic business man who knows how to turn the economy around. But changes in the economy are not in any of the candidates’ control.
ALIENATING LATINOS AND WOMEN
What is in their control however, is how they have portrayed themselves in these debates and in campaign events around the country. It is in these forums that they have done the most long-term damage to one another and to the party brand as a whole. Last week’s Arizona debate was a clear example, and several campaign rallies from this past weekend only underscore this point.
In one short two-hour span of time during last week’s Arizona debate, the GOP candidates managed to succinctly show all of America how they are alienating two of the most important demographics and voters in the country today: Latinos and women. And what demographic lies distinctly in both camps? The increasingly important Latina Mami.
Between Mitt Romney’s embrace of the harsh Arizona anti-immigrant law—SB1070—as a model for the nation, using Pete Wilson (of CA Prop 187 fame) and Chris Kobach (author of SB 1070) as advisors to his campaign, and Newt Gingrich’s early salvo in the Arizona debate blaming Arizona’s prison populations and Emergency Room resource depletion on undocumented immigrants coming over the Southern Border, and his doubling down on building not just one wall, but a double wall on the border, the Republican candidates showed their continued tin-ear or more realistically, a true disregard for Latino voters in this country.
Add to that, the candidates’ combined remarks leading up to the debate that underscored their stances on issues important to women such as wanting to deny equal access to preventative health services for women including contraception, Santorum’s not believing that women should serve in combat, and Romney’s support of “Personhood” amendments in the states. What do we get?
We start to get a very clear picture of a party with tunnel-vision. Some Republicans would say “duh,” they need to speak this way to win their base. Others are not so sure and are growing increasingly antsy that their candidates are alienating key voters by the day. The polls bear out this anxiety. Romney is tanking among independents, and majorities of independent women, including Latina Moms, do not agree with where the GOP is on contraception (99% of American women have used contraception) and health services (or lack thereof) for women. This is not a good place to be with women when they represent 53% of the American electorate.
KISS THE LATINO VOTE GOODBYE
And Latinos? The GOP may as well kiss goodbye any chance of getting the magic number of 40% among Latinos. In a recent poll by Univision, 71% of Latino voters said they either did not think the Republican Party cared for them, or thought it was downright hostile to them. The numbers among Latina Moms are not much better, and they even rub salt in the wounds because early numbers indicated a willingness to be open to arguments from both parties. In a recent Mamiverse study, 1/3 of online Latina mothers said they were not supporting any particular candidate or party. But in a follow up poll Mamiverse did with Latino Decisions on the eve of the Florida GOP Primary last month, the numbers showed the dangerous rhetoric had started to seep in. Seventy six percent of Latina moms in Florida said that “none of the GOP candidates were acceptable.” And even 41% of self-identified Republican Latina Moms said found “none” of the GOP candidates to be acceptable.
While these numbers should send a chill down the spine of GOP operatives, are they really that much of a surprise? Let’s take Rick Santorum. This past weekend, he scoffed at President Obama’s notion and goal that “everyone should go to college.” Santorum called the President a snob for wanting that for all of America’s children. Really? I’m sorry Mr. Santorum but you lost us there. The goal of the vast majority of Latina mothers in this country is for their kids to have the opportunity to go to college. We know a good education is the key to a better life. And that is what we want for our kids.
So when the GOP scoffs at college as a goal, when their budget plans call for slashing of Pell Grants (many of which go to Latino students for college), when they vow to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act which provided 9 million Latinos with health care coverage who didn’t have it before and gives our Latino children with pre-existing conditions the right to coverage, and when Mitt Romney—their presumed “frontrunner”—vows to veto the Dream Act which majorities of Latina mothers support, you are in effect telling Latina Moms, we don’t want and don’t care for your support. Or your families for that matter.
So as the GOP primary process continues and brings Republicans closer to having a nominee, what voters will be left for them to fight for in a general election? If they continue on their strident path of trying to out-extreme-right-wing each other—none. Not Latinos, not women, and especially Latina moms. That is no way to win the White House.