By Alex Gonzalez
The new polls by the Wall Street Journal and Gallup show that Mitt Romney’s economic message is not increasing his favorability. In fact, he is still low among independent voters in swing states. The latest polls also show that Romney still has a big deficit with Latino voters. But this deficit and lack of favorability could be minimized if Romney travels to Mexico or South America to bring his economic message to Latin. A trip south will also translate into a positive message to Latino voters in the US in swing states.
Despite worldwide financial turmoil, thanks to NAFTA, Mexico-and the US are now more economically intertwined sharing an annual 1 trillion trade with Canada. Latin America has also been one the most economically stable regions in the world with a continuous 5% GDP growth across the region. Consequently, if Romney crosses the border southward, with his economic plan of free market, he could convey a conservative message of job creation in the US and Latin American. More importantly, Latino voters may finally perceive Romney’s as a candidate who does want to reach out to Latinos through an economic message, especially in Miami, Florida which is considered the capital of South American trade.
Polls have stalled for Romney and very few people will change their mind from now until the election. In fact, Romney is only vying for 3-4% of the total vote. But according to polls, one of three new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times polls Mitt Romney with a slight lead over President Obama. But Romney trails Obama in the two other surveys — conducted in Virginia and Wisconsin — suggesting that Obama retains an advantage in the battle for the Electoral College, particularly when compared with last week’s polls showing Obama leading in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Furthermore, of the 8 tracking national polls for the last 2 months have Romney lagging behind with 3 or 5 points behind Obama– only Rasmussen and the Washington Times have Romney in a tie with Obama.
Similarly in swing states the 5 point gap remains the same—Rasmussen has Colorado in tie at 47. However, among Latino voters, Gallup (conservative) shows Obama leading Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 66% to 25% among Hispanic registered voters. Also, Latino Decision (a liberal poll) shows Obama winning 70 percent of the Latino vote. As a result, Romney’s economic message is not getting much consideration among Latino and independent voters in swing states. But, Romney can break this obstacle if he shows more attention towards Latinos—like Bush did—and promotes more free trade in Latin America.
Just like Jewish and Cuban voters who have an emotional attachment to their ancestral land, Latinos in the US want Latin-America to prosper economically through free trade. Hence, Latinos in the US are prone to perceive free trade as a positive sign when any American Presidents, or candidates, promote free trade with the US. And therein lies the big opportunity for Mitt Romney who has ample material to talk about economics progress between the US and Mexico, or with Latin America. For example, NAFTA is the biggest free trade zone, globally, with combined trade of one trillion each year between Canada, the US, and Mexico. Also, as Robert Pastor noted,
beyond the economy and national security, our two neighbors have societal ties to the United States that make all other ethnic connections seem lean in comparison. By 2015, there will be about 35 million people in the United States who were either born in Mexico or whose parents were born in Mexico; that number exceeds the total population of Canada. Canadians in the United States don’t stand out as much as do Mexicans, but nearly a million Canadians live in the United States. And more Americans live in Mexico than in any other foreign country.
NAFTA, nearly twenty years on, has spurred deep integration in North America. Trade between the three participants has increased three fold to over a trillion dollars. Even more telling is the integration of regional supply chains. As Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies explained, “We’re no longer trading products in North America; we’re making products together.” Today 40 percent of U.S. imports from Mexico are produced within the United States—this means that even if it says “Made in Mexico” nearly half of the work was done in the United States. Hence, if Romney needs an economic angle—and not so much about immigration—to travel to Mexico, he got it. He can travel to Latin America and talk about the merits of free trade and how NAFTA has tripled the per-capital for Mexican workers.
Also, if the issue of illegal immigration makes Romney feels uncomfortable, he can talk about it in economic terms. As columnist Michael Barone points out, the problem of illegal immigration could be alleviated with identification technology that no longer seems scary since the numbers of illegal Mexican entering to US seem to be declining, we could leave that issue aside and provide more openings for the high-skill immigrants we plainly need. So if Romney really believes that what he, and all his conservative advisors argue that they all like “legal immigration,” then he now has the perfect economic argument for “legal immigration; in effect, this is the perfect opportunity for Romney to show how legal high-skilled immigration and more free trade will benefit both nations. Romney could also make the argument that we could set up a system to make sure that those skilled immigrants pay for some of the burden of entitlements.
More importantly, for free-trade relations between the US and Mexico is that, despite that ridiculous argument by some “conservatives” that the southern border is “open” to terrorism, the fact that the southern border has been cleared of allegation of “terrorist incursions.” For instance, for the first time in years, the southern border with Mexico, and illegal immigration, were removed from being labeled as “real” threats to the U.S. Homeland. The House Hearing on National Security and Threats to our Homeland shows the successful improvement by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made it possible for Republican Candidates to tout a conservative free-market approach with Mexico and Latin America under legal framework, without the fear of terrorist attacks, and insures the safety of Americans while enhancing free-trade and the free flow of goods. So Romney no longer has to trade-off free trade overt “shutting down” the border since the CBP, DHS, and National Counterterrorism Center have already discarded any threats entering from Mexico. In fact, terrorism–or terrorist threats–have become more of a domestic issue since Al-Qaeda is now attempting to recruit Americans here in the US to carry out any attacks.
Furthermore, there is no reason for feeling uneasy traveling to South America since there has been praise for the region in the past, especially Chile. In the past, Romney has mentioned that “I was interested in how nations that were so close to each other in terms of geography could be so different in terms of prosperity. Take, for example, Mexico and the United States, Israel and Egypt, Chile and Ecuador.” If indeed Romney admires the Chilean model of Capitalism, traveling to South America may be another great opportunity for Romney to show the world that free market works. Too, Colombian has been staunch military ally of the US. And US-Colombia free-trade agreement promoted by President Bush has been put aside by Obama due to pressure from the Union.
Therefore, Romney needs to really reach out to Latino voters and Latin-America by promoting his free-market views to foster trade with Mexico and Latin America. He should seriously consider traveling south of the border to make his case to Latino voters in the US. As of today, his views on immigration are not consistent, but he can tout his business experience as tool to enhance business between the prosperous Latin American nations such as Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil. Many of these countries are enjoying the prosperity of new found oil.
The persistent 3-to-5 gap in the national polls, and 64-25 among Latinos, should signal to Romney’s advisors that he needs to work hard on the Latino vote; he needs to extend a genuine hand to Latinos. If there is one thing that the Texas runoff can show Romney is that claiming that you are conservative is not enough to get votes. It is the passion that evokes people and moves them to the voting polls at election time. In other words, Romney needs to jump the fence southward if he wants to get elected. It may be that his advisors are cocooning him from reaching out to Latinos and Latin America, but unfortunately for those advisors, Romney desperately needs Latino voters to become president, whether they want to admit it now or after the election.