Romney Looks in a Faraway “Holy” Land What He has Next Door and at Home: Free Trade and Latino Votes

By Alex Gonzalez

Mitt Romney is traveling to Britain, Poland, and Israel to display his foreign relations credentials and to woo Jewish voters in Florida, a swing state. But although Jewish voters in Florida maybe an important bloc of voters in that state–and maybe a few Polish voters in Chicago and Detroit—Mitt Romney is traveling thousands of miles looking for what he has at home and next door.  If Mitt Romney is seeking to show his business and free trade credentials, Mexico is the second largest US trade partner; and a visit to Latin American, could boost likeability for Romney among Latino voters.  Thus, the votes that Romney is seeking are here at home and just next door, not across the pond.

According to an op-ed on WSJ by Rafael Medoff , “Romney is visiting Jerusalem to win Florida.” He argues that it is impossible for Romney to win the Jewish Vote all together in the US.  Instead, Romney needs to minimize the Jewish-Obama vote in Florida.  “Mitt Romney will soon visit a city that could prove crucial to his election hopes—not Miami or Richmond or Cleveland, but Jerusalem. This year more than ever, the Jewish vote is up for grabs, and Barack Obama has no one to blame but himself.”  Romney’s team evidently appreciates all this. Governor Romney’s visit to Jerusalem will highlight his warm personal relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his steadfast commitment to the Jewish state.  Thus, all this fanfare of traveling abroad is just to get a few Jewish votes in Florida.

 The Republicans do not need to win a majority of the Jewish vote—something that hasn’t happened since 1920. Even a significant reduction of the Jewish vote for Obama would likely have major impact, especially in a key state such as Florida, which George W. Bush won in 2000 by just 537 votes. Some 640,000 Jews reside in the Sunshine State, and they care deeply about Israel.

And it is true,that senior Jewish voters in Florida care about Israel.  According to the  Jewish Data Bank  Report,  seniors who are  64% of Jewish-American voters in Florida have an “emotional attachment”  to Israel.  Also, Obama’s support among Jews is at 62% today, down from 78% in 2008. A Sienna College poll in June showed that in New York, President Obama’s edge over Mr. Romney among Jews has shrunk to just 8%. But dissatisfaction with Obama alone will not turn into support for Romney, even if Romney has a personal relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. For example, in 2008, Sen. McCain received only 21% of the Jewish vote even though McCain was one of the most Hawkish Republicans in the Senate seeking the right of Israel to protect its borders.  Moreover, according to the Jewish Report, and even if the 64% of Jewish-American voters in Florida have an “emotional” attachment to Israel, the attachment does not translate to into support for the GOP. In fact, Israel issues build more support among Conservative Evangelicals than Jewish-American voters.

Even the Economist Magazine noted that this trip is more about domestic ethnic politics  to lure the Jewish community in America. Consequently, this trip by Romney is just an attempt to woo a few Jewish votes, and not about free trade. Conversely, very few voters care about the Israel-Palestine issue, and more about the economy and jobs.  True, senior Jewish voters in Florida may care more about Israel than jobs, but this view is very unlike to influence other groups like Latino voters in Florida or the Southwest.  In fact, if Romney wants to display his business credentials in the international arena, he needs to go to Mexico and Latin American and promote more free trade, which in turn, will create jobs in America.

Currently our trade with Mexico has increased 7 times over since NAFTA was enacted, reaching $360 billion annually.  Gingrich believed that a “prosperous, stable, and democratic Mexico would be a better neighbor than a poor, unstable and undemocratic Mexico as higher economic growth would ultimately reduce illegal immigration into the United States.”  Mexicans could stay home and get jobs.  And, this is exactly is what is happening in Mexico, despite the violence.   Specifically, just in 2010, the trade between the U.S. and its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, Canada and Mexico, jumped a record 24.3%  in 2010.  U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $471 billion in 2010, an increase of 22.1%.  The value of imports carried by truck from Canada was 17.3% higher in 2010 than 2009 while the value of exports carried by truck rose 21.8 %.  Further, surface transportation trade between the U.S. and Mexico totaled $320.3 billion, up 27.6%.  Truck imports rose 26.5% while exports rose 24.3%.  The total merchandise trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico reached $944.6 billion in 2010, an increase of 218% since 1993. Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest trade partners. Newt Gingrich has always been a friend to Latin America and Mexico; in fact, he wants to create a legal free trade, within a legal frame work.

Conversely, annual trade between the US and Israel is only $18. billion.  In 2011, U.S.-Poland bilateral trade was $7.5 billion.  As a result, there is no real economic reason for Romney to be in Poland and Israel while he could be in Mexico and Canada promoting job creation by enlarging NAFTA, and thereby, wooing Latino voters  who—just like Jewish voters in Florida—also have an emotional attachment to Latin America.  This is the reason why Sen. McCain traveled to Mexico and Colombia in 2008, President W.  Bush  often used to  travel to South America.

Sen. McCain also traveled to Mexico while he was running for president.  On July of 2008, McCain visited Mexico’s holiest Roman Catholic shrine, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe.  Not only was John McCain using religion but he was also praising NAFTA and the inexorable trade relations between Canada, the US, and Mexico. Thus, just Like Bush who went to Guanajuato Mexico in his first international official trip, in 2008, McCain knew that for Latino, religion and an “emotional” attachment to their ancestral homeland—as it is for Jewish American and their relation to Israel—matter.  How Romney speaks about Mexico and Latin America will have an effect on how Latinos voters will vote on November. It is a fact of politics, religion, and geographical location for Latinos in the Southwest.

Moreover, most polls in the last 6 months show that Americans are mainly worried about the economy. Not one single poll shows the Israel-Palestine as their main issue. Conversely, most polls do show that Americans want jobs and are worried about jobs and looming national debt and deficit.  Thus, If Romney was to promote jobs and more free market that creates jobs in America, Romney would be better off traveling in Latin American and Mexico where the economies have kept a steady 5% national GDP growth.

Therefore, Britain, Poland, and Israel will not solve Romney’s unfavorable views among Hispanic voters in swing states.  So if you are a retired Jewish voter in Florida—a swing state, you will vote against Obama, not so much for Romney.  Most Jewish-American   voters in Florida are retiring so they don’t really see job-creation as their issue, but more one how Romney deals with the issue of Israel. But if you are non-Cuban Hispanic voters, the issue of Israel is irrelevant and you are more concerned with job-creation and the trade and cultural relations between the US and Latin America. So Romney is unnecessarily putting all his Jewish eggs in one basket –Florida—while neglecting the big enchilada in the Southwest. He needs to go to Mexico and promote free trade in Latin American as the means to create jobs in American.  Romney could really use a play from Bush and McCain’s campaign strategy playbook.

Any anthropologist would tell you that the Holy Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico is equal to the “King Solomon Temple,”  so why not go to Mexico’s “holiest” shrine and  finally make  peace  with Latinos by promoting more free trade under NAFTA, CAFTA, and the SPP instead of traveling thousands of miles for very few Jewish votes in Florida.   Romney’s favorability among Latino voters is at dismal 25%.  So he needs a Latino miracle to get to needed 40%  Latino vote in swing states to become president.  It is obvious to many that the Holy Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico is a better place to look for votes than the “King Solomon Temple.” in this election.  Maybe Romney’s team should consider going south of the border before the November election goes south for him.

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