“Rubio-gate,” the Washington Post-uncovered scandal surrounding Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) biographical “embellishments,” will do little to change the perception that Hispanic voters have of the Republican rising star – considered by many as the GOP’s greatest hope for attracting the Latino vote as the potential 2012 vice presidential nominee.
However, there are plenty of other policy positions and political moves by which to access Rubio’s ability to attract this increasingly important demographic. Among them, his opposition to the American Jobs Act, the DREAM Act, and the Republican presidential field’s snub to Univision over Rubio’s claims that the largest Hispanic network tried to “blackmail” him.
And yet, the public is not focusing on these metrics. Instead, we are caught debating on Rubio’s immigration status.
Dwelling on the exact year in which Rubio’s parents left Cuba – more than five decades ago – is not only irrelevant to the issues that affect voters today (Hispanic or otherwise), but also insensitive to millions of American immigrants who left their homelands behind – amid political and economic events that are often overlapped and intertwined. Latino voters understand this and, as far as compelling personal stories go, are likely to relate to the Rubio family’s quest for a freer and more prosperous future for their children.
Rubio’s parents fled Havana for Miami in May 1956 – only seven months before the Fidel Castro-led revolution landed on the island to eventually seize power from United States-aligned authoritarian president Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Luckily for Rubio, his parents had the ability to foresee what their country’s political volatility would bring in the near future and the courage to act quickly on it.
Now, whether Rubio has the ability to deliver the increasingly critical Latino vote as the potential Republican presidential candidate’s running mate in 2012 will depend on how Hispanic voters perceive: 1) Rubio’s record on issues of importance to Latinos such as the economy, jobs and immigration; and 2) His outreach to the Hispanic community in order to articulate a vision of sound economic recovery and job creation.
Some Latino conservative groups, such as “Somos Republicans,” have criticized Rubio as “unfriendly” to Hispanics due to his views on immigration. Similarly, his opposition to the DREAM Act (which would have provided a path to citizenship to certain illegal aliens who enrolled in college or served in the military) and President Barack Obama’s jobs bill (which would have benefited 250,000 Hispanic-owned small-businesses with job creation-oriented tax breaks) is likely to demand some explanation from this increasingly important demographic.
Latinos will vote for the candidate that best reaches out to them and offers a compelling vision for sound economic recovery and job creation. That is why, regardless of the circumstances, boycotting Univision was a bad idea for the 2012 Republican presidential field. According to Nielsen, Univision leads all American Spanish-language networks (most recently by a prime-time average of 3.3 million viewers) and often out-performs one or more of the English-language broadcast networks among adults 18-34.
Somehow – after dialing up harsh immigration rhetoric, one debate at a time – the Republicans managed to snub the Hispanic audience equivalent of ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX viewers combined, which is a luxury the Republicans can’t afford if they hope to win the White House and regain control of the Senate in 2012.
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