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Hey Mitt, this is no way to win over Latinos

September 14, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has come under fire in the past for controversial comments on immigration and immigrants.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has come under fire in the past for controversial… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

Doesn't it seem as if GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney might benefit from, well, a little distance from Mitt Romney? In recent days he's demonstrated a certain knack for saying the wrong thing.

Take, for example, Romney’s endorsement of U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) last week in Orange City, in which the former Massachusetts governor enthusiastically threw his support behind King, telling the crowd, "I want him as my partner in Washington, D.C."

By Wednesday, it seemed as if the campaign wanted a little breathing room from Romney's would-be partner, at least on immigration. Romney’s camp issued a statement saying that "as president, Mitt Romney will deal with this issue in a civil and resolute manner," according to Fox Latino. No explicit mention of King, but the statement reiterated the candidate’s support for a bipartisan approach.

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That's all fine, but the trouble is Romney's already got an image problem with Latinos, and throwing King a little love probably didn’t help him with those Latino voters in key swing states who remember King as the congressman who compared immigrants to dogs and supported building an electrified fence along the border with Mexico, noting that "we do this with livestock all the time."

King has since said his comment about immigrants and dogs wasn't an insult. Rather, he was praising immigrants when he said that the U.S. should pick only the best immigrants, the same way someone might select the “pick of the litter.”

But even if some agree that King is just an inarticulate lawmaker, Romney’s already been linked to other public officials with much more troubling baggage. Last year, he sought the support of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who went on trial this year over allegations that his department had engaged in racially profiling Latinos.

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Clearly, Latinos don't cast their votes based solely on whether a candidate supports comprehensive immigration reform or stricter enforcement. The economy, education, public safety are the top issues, just as they are for all voters. But Latinos don't appreciate candidates who demonize immigrants either.

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