It’s an election year of Firsts. The First Female President. The First African-American President. The First Mexican President. The First Panamanian President. With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton now deadlocked in national and state polls on the cusp of Super Tuesday, both are making desperate pleas to Hispanic communities in the West —Latinos make up 20% of Colorado’s population and account for 400,000 registered voters, while the five million Latino voters in California will make up about 14-20% of the primary electorate in Super Tuesday’s biggest prize. But who needs Democrats?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Though close to 60% of registered Latino voters identify as Democrats, in this election, everyone can afford to be choosy: Mitt Romney, after all, can claim close ties with Chihuahua, Mexico; and who can forget Central America’s favorite son, John McCain, reppin’ his hometown of Colón, Panama? With such flavor from south of the border, undecided voters won’t have to settle for W’s marginal command of Spanish catchphrases and favorite spicy dishes.
Mitt’s father George Romney, born in Chihuahua in a Mormon colony founded by his grandfather who left the U.S. under persecution from anti-polygamy laws, returned to the States in 1912 during the Mexican Revolution. Fortunately, as the “natural born” clause in the Constitution is interpreted to include kids born to citizens when abroad, George was able to run—unsuccessfully—for President in 1968, and his son was able to become an expert on compassionate border control and chain migration: “The Constitution…indicates that those that are born here do become US citizens by virtue of being born here. But if they're born here from parents who come across the border illegally and bring them here illegally, in my view, we should not adopt, then, these chain migration policies that say, you've got a child here that's a US citizen, and the whole family can come in,” he noted in a Coral Gables Republican debate. “That, in my opinion, is a mistake. We are a nation of laws…We're going to enforce the laws. We're not going to cut off immigration; we're going to keep immigration alive and thriving. But we're going to end the practice of illegal immigration. It's not inhumane. It's humanitarian. It's compassionate.”
Romney’s immigration creds, however, may be secondary to “Panama” John McCain and his multiple-month nascent stay at Coco Solo submarine base near Colón. Born to future Navy admiral Jack McCain, who married John’s mother Roberta in Tijuana, Mexico, John spent his childhood hopping from base to base, both at home and abroad, before joining the Annapolis class of 1954. After the Vietnam War and terms in the House and Senate, his stance on immigration—called amnesty by Romney—doesn’t forget his roots as a non-immigrant-immigrant war hero. “Hispanics is what we're talking about, a different culture, a different language, which has enriched my state where Spanish was spoken before English was,” he said at a June 6 Republican forum in New Hampshire. “I want you, the next time you're down in Washington, DC, to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite. You'll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. They must come into this country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them.”
So while Hillary and Barak may talk a good game—Clinton touting her long career of Hispanic advocacy and support of immigration, Obama endorsing new laws including drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants while motivating young voters of all backgrounds—they’ll be campaigning for critical Hispanic votes in Colorado and the West against the considerable experiences and extensive cultural simpatico of Señors Romney and McCain. -- Joe Horton