Will Arizona’s GOP Latinos Help Santorum?

somos republicansRick Santorum has been getting too close for Mitt Romney’s comfort in the most recent Arizona primary polls.  The Real Clear Politics spread still has Romney with an eight-point advantage, but the CNN/Time poll has both candidates in a statistical tie.  If Santorum builds on his recent momentum he could eke out a primary win and in no small part to due Latino Republicans in the state.

In Arizona, unlike Florida, the vast majority of Latinos vote the Democratic ticket.  However, portions of the Latino electorate do vote Republican.  In the 2010 mid-term election Jan Brewer received 14 percent of the Latino vote while John McCain received 22 percent in his Senate race.  In the upcoming closed primary, the likely participation of registered Latino Republicans will be much more modest, in the neighborhood of 5-10 percent, but even so at the low end the Latino Republican vote could determine a close race.

A key factor in Tuesday’s primary and the larger Latino Republican landscape in Arizona is Somos Republicans.  They were founded in 2009 in Arizona and have grown to over 6000 members with a concentration in the Southwest.  Their main engine of growth came in the aftermath of the signing into law of Arizona S.B.1070.  Somos Republicans opposed S.B. 1070 and continues to take a firm stance in opposition to anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy within the Republican Party.  Their mission is to support humane immigration reform that conforms to a market economy, in other words, not the recent crop of anti-immigrant measures.

Somos Republicans continue to believe in general Republican principles but reject the anti-immigrant platform that has come to be identified with the Republican Party. In an effort to best balance these views, Somos Republicans have put forward a two-pronged strategy this primary season.  First, endorsing Newt Gingrich, the candidate they perceive as having the least anti-immigrant platform.  And second, actively campaign against Mitt Romney, the candidate they view as having the most anti-immigrant platform.  In fact, their rejection of Romney is so strong that Somos Republicans have instructed their membership to write in Ronald Reagan for President if Romney wins the GOP nomination.

The endorsement of Gingrich and rejection of Romney leaves Santorum in a strategically good spot.  To be sure, garnering the Latino vote is not part of Santorum’s calculus for winning the primary contests.  Rick Santorum’s favorables among Latinos are the lowest of the GOP candidates.  He has not made overtures to this electorate and has been courting the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a leader in the anti-immigrant legislation movement. The Latino strategy for Santorum rests in seeing as many Latino votes as possible being siphoned away from Mitt Romney.

victoria defrancesco sotoArizona’s Republican primary is winner-take-all, meaning that the candidate to finish first will receive all 29 delegates leaving nothing for the remaining three candidates.  If this were a primary were delegates are allotted proportionately, then Santorum would not be as keen on seeing Gingrich’s support rise, but in this case, the Latino votes that get funneled away from Romney to Gingrich helps Santorum by further closing the gap of support.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows.  In the case of Arizona, Santorum has found an unexpected friend in Somos Republicans, an organization that does not share his views on immigration but shares their intense desire to not see Romney as the GOP presidential nominee.

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. VMDS 

Published by the LA Progressive on February 25, 2012
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and a Faculty Fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2007 during which time she was a National Science Foundation Fellow. DeFrancesco Soto was recently named one of the top 12 scholars in the country by Diverse magazine.

Victoria’s research analyzes how human thought and emotion shapes political behavior. Her academic work focuses on: campaigns and elections, political marketing, race and ethnic politics, and immigration. Her academic research has been widely published in scholarly journals and edited volumes. In 2008, Dr. DeFrancesco Soto was Northwestern University’s principal investigator for the Big Ten Battleground Poll, a public opinion survey of voters for the 2008 Presidential election. She is currently working on a book manuscript that analyzes the emergence of conservative feminism.