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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Republicans Suck at Outreach

I try not to make political predictions. There are just too many variables most of the time to be able to see all that far ahead. When you're this far out from an election, it's a little soon to start thinking you're seeing anything with any amount of clarity. When you're even farther out, it's an exercise in futility, as Ed Kilgore points out today:

A year ago, one of the most commonly discussed scenarios for an Obama defeat in 2012 was his potential weakness among Hispanic voters, an important part of his 2008 coalition (and crucial in several battleground states) that had suffered disproportionately from bad economic times and whose leaders were tangibly unhappy with the president for failing to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.

Today an oversample of Hispanic voters in a NBC-Wall Street Journal survey supplies the latest evidence that Obama may be on track to match his 2008 performance among Hispanic voters: he currently leads Romney by a 61-27 margin, within range of his 67-31 margin over McCain in 2008. Romney’s famously hard-line position on immigration, which he used to great effect in the primaries to validate himself among conservatives (and to dispatch Rick Perry), is presumably a factor in his poor standing among Hispanics (outside the Cuban-American and Puerto Rican communities where there is relatively little concern about immigration policy).

Ironically, the punditry failure on this prediction was utterly predictable. Seriously, was there any chance in hell that today's Republican Party would nominate a candidate who was more progressive on immigration than Obama? The ad above -- run by PAC+, a lefty Super PAC -- could've been made no matter who won the primaries. But it fits Romney especially well, since -- as Kilgore noted -- he engaged in anti-immigrant demagoguery during the primary campaign.


Of course, when you've alienated such a large demographic group, you have to at least try to get them back. And Mittens tried. Well, not really "tried" so much as "lazily acknowledged their existence."

Mitt addressed an event hosted by the Latino Coalition yesterday and, instead of trying to rebuild bridges, pretended he hadn't burn any at all. In fact, to abuse the metaphor, he pretended fire doesn't even exist. According to Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin, "Immigration was not mentioned once, either in the address or in a pre-screened Q&A session."

This is less surprising than it would at first appear. It's part of a pattern; not only within Team Romney, but the wider GOP as well. When dealing with a group of alienated voters, Republicans approach the problem the same way they approach economics -- bass-ackward. They don't try to connect with those voters and address their concerns. Instead, they try to get those voters to connect with them and get those voters to worry about Republican concerns. They don't try to represent them, they try to indoctrinate and convert them.

This has been working about as well as you'd think.

For example, check out this outreach effort by House Republicans to reconnect with women voters. They get a bunch of female GOPers to get on camera and talk about taxes and how awful Obama is. What they don't talk about is this whole War on Women thing that alienated all the women voters in the first place. I haven't quoted myself in a while, so I figure I'm due. Here was my take at the time:

It’s like someone walked up to them and said, “What’s all this crazy stuff about trans-vaginal ultrasounds?” and they answer, “Yes, I too am concerned about the economy.”

And Mitt's doing the exact same thing with Latinos. They're asking, "What's with all this crazy anti-immigration stuff?" and he says, "I agree that unemployment is a big problem." He may be in the same room with them physically, but he is nowhere near them when it comes to addressing their concerns -- or even listening to them. The GOP is a top-down organization. They don't listen to you, you listen to them.

And if you don't agree with them on an issue, they literally have nothing to say to you.


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