A screengrab from PAC 's first ad against Mitt Romney. (PAC / Los Angles Times )
Mitt Romney said it himself: He needs to boost his support among Latinos, or cede the White House to Barack Obama for another four years.
Speaking last month at a fundraiser in Palm Beach, Fla., (just within earshot of eavesdropping reporters) the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged the resistance he faces among Latino voters after moving far right during the Republican primaries on immigration and other issues. “If it’s not turned around,” said the GOP nominee-to-be, “it spells doom for us.”
Romney clearly has some work to do. A new national poll, conducted for NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo, showed him trailing the president 61% to 27% among Latinos.
Obama and his team, of course, are doing their part to keep the anger simmering. Now the president is getting help from a new liberal super PAC, which is aiming to boost minority turnout in a handful of critical states.
Today, the group, PAC+ begins airing its first TV spot in Arizona, where it lumps Romney with two of the most reviled figures in the Latino community, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. (Brewer endorsed Romney just ahead of Arizona’s February primary. Arpaio, who backed Romney when he ran in 2008, stayed neutral after his first pick, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, quit the race).
The group chose Arizona for the launch for both symbolic and practical reasons.
Said Julie Martinez Ortega, president of PAC+: “We want to draw attention to the political significance of the state,” which has been at the center of debate over cracking down on illegal immigration through vigorous — some say unduly harsh — enforcement efforts. Arizona “has taken on a level of symbolic importance for a lot of people, whether they’re Latino or not, who see the protection of civil rights as an important part of an inclusive America.”
From a political standpoint, Arizona is a state on the cusp, transitioning from red to purple as the Latino population grows and its clout increases in response to the crackdown championed by Arpaio, Brewer and others. (For precedent, see California and Proposition 187, circa the mid-1990s. That measure, championed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, was passed but contributed to nearly two decades of Democratic dominance as Latinos flocked to the party.) The question is whether Arizona can come into play for Obama and the Democrats this November.
A win in Arizona could relieve a bit of the electoral-map pressure on Obama, who is struggling to hang onto several states that he won four years ago but now appear out of reach. Democrats are also vying to capture the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Jon Kyl, and perhaps gain two House seats.
The PAC+ ad, which features Latino characters literally falling under a shadow cast by Romney, Arpaio and Brewer, is set to run for several weeks in both English and Spanish in Arizona’s three major TV markets, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma.