Mitt Romney won white evangelicals, but struggled with Latino Catholics

Published: Sunday, Nov. 11 2012 9:00 p.m. MST

With ethnicity woven so tightly into religious perspectives, a persistent theme in postmortem GOP analysis is the possibility of capturing more of the Latino Catholics.

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer argued in his weekly column for an immediate embrace of amnesty in an effort to win over Latinos. "The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example)."

Others question this thesis, arguing that the socially conservative bona fides of the Latino voter are vastly overrated, and that economic equalitarianism is their driving concern.

Among the doubters is the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald. She noted in National Review a conversation she had with John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in Southern California.

"What Republicans mean by 'family values' and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things," Echeveste told Mac Donald. "We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people."

MacDonald went on to note that nearly "one-quarter of all Hispanics are poor in California, compared to a little over one-tenth of non-Hispanics. Nearly seven in 10 poor children in the state are Hispanic, and one in three Hispanic children is poor, compared to less than one in six non-Hispanic children."

All of this, MacDonald argues, plays heavily partisan politics, rendering the core Latino vote less available to a GOP centered on smaller government, regardless of any shared social values.

In a City Journal piece from earlier this year, MacDonald cited a recent poll that "asked California's Latino voters why they had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. The two top reasons were that the party favored only the rich and that Republicans were selfish and out for themselves; Republican positions on immigration law were cited less often."

A possible counter to MacDonald's argument lies in the 2004 exit polls, which showed Bush winning a very healthy 43 percent of the Latino vote, suggesting that under the right circumstances, much of that vote might be available to the GOP.

email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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