Wait a minute! This election is supposed to be about the economy, right? So why do Latinos keep talking about that other thing?
Republicans, and Mitt Romney most of all, don't want to talk about anything but the economy. Not his refusal to release tax returns. Not immigration. They do want to talk about health care, but even then they only want to talk about its economic impact, as in, "It's a tax! Tax! TAX!"
In short, to them, it's all about money.
So why do Hispanics keep muddling Mitt Romney's efforts by talking about the DREAM Act and immigration reform and -- yegads! -- what to do about the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country.
On the bright side, at least they're not booing him the way the NAACP crowd did when Romney spoke to them on Tuesday. (He left them with a somewhat ominous parting shot: "I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be returned," he said. ... Gulp!)
But that Hispanic off-message thing happened again this week in Las Vegas, at the National Council of La Raza's annual convention. The group held a straw poll of the folks in attendance. It wasn't scientific, by any means. They invited everyone to respond to a text message and tell them how they feel about things.
Still, they got 804 responses. And the results are illuminating. Eight out of 10 said they plan to vote for President Obama. Only one out of 10 said they expect to cast their ballot for Romney. Yeah, well.
The bigger deal, though, is how the respondents ranked the issues they care about.
The economy and jobs came in first, but only by a small margin. Immigration came in second, ahead of education.
That, the NCLR's director of civic engagement and immigration told Terra, is an important change. Instead of immigration fading, or falling far behind the economy as an issue, it's moving up -- and, she said, it's moving up in an economy that should be dominating everyone's attention.
"The notable thing about the fact that immigration has risen above not only number five, but it's like in the top three issues in the last couple of years, particularly since 2010," Clarissa Martinez said, "and that that has happened even though we're in an economic and foreclosure crisis."
In order, 36 percent of the respondents put the economy first, 29 percent said immigration, and 21 percent said education.
Martinez's analysis of why immigration moved up: for Hispanics, the immigration issue is about a lot more than immigration.
"Latinos tend to see it as a civil rights issue because when you have a negative immigration debate it affects all Latinos regardless of immigration status."
That might explain why Romney isn't doing better in Florida. The two most populous Hispanic groups in the state, Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans, are personally unaffected by the nation's immigration policy. Cubans have been granted special status for nearly half a century. If they can get here, they can stay. It was Washington's way of slapping Fidel Castro. Puerto Ricans, of course, are U.S. citizens. (Although apparently that's not common knowledge among a stunningly large group of non-Hispanics. They sang about in "West Side Story" more than 55 years ago -- "Nobody knows in America/Puerto Rico's in America.") So, they ought to not care about immigration, right?
A Quinnipiac University poll in battleground states shows Obama edging Romney 45 percent to 41 percent in Florida. But the margin is much wider among Hispanic voters in the Sunshine State. They back Obama over Romney by 56 percent to 32, up significantly from the 49 to 39 result just a week earlier.
In Florida," the poll's authors wrote, "on the heels of the president's order that will prevent the deportation of some younger illegal immigrants, he holds a big lead among Hispanic voters."
The poll found 58 percent supporting Obama's "stopgap" DREAM Act order halting the deportations of young undocumented immigrants, compared to 33 percent against.
The bigger concern for Republicans might be the impact the issue has on Hispanics.
"Immigration, as part of the political debate," Martinez said, "plays an energizing role with Latino voters."
So Romney might want to take note. The economy may be the No. 1 issue for him and Latinos, but it's not the only one. And Hispanics are clearly looking for a president who cares as much as they do about immigration.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison