MEMO: Before Tonight’s Caucuses, What Has Iowa Shown Us About Republicans?
TO: Interested Parties
FR: Bill Burton, Priorities USA Action
RE: MEMO: Before Tonight’s Caucuses, What Has Iowa Shown Us About Republicans?
Even before the Iowa Caucuses tonight, Republican candidates have managed to do permanent damage to their general election prospects with two key voter groups. New Republican litmus tests on the plan to dismantle Medicare and on a divisive and unworkable immigration policy raise concerns from senior and Hispanic voters who have rightly rejected both proposals.
In his effort to dispatch Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, Mitt Romney has underscored this problem. On Medicare, he harshly criticized Gingrich for opposing the House Republican plan that would essentially end Medicare. And on immigration, he savaged Gingrich and Perry for advocating anything less than a draconian, systematic deportation of all undocumented immigrants.
Over the past year, Hispanic voters have watched as views formerly confined to the Pat Buchanan-Tom Tancredo fringe have become the only acceptable policy for Republican presidential candidates. Since Rick Perry entered the Presidential race in August, Mitt Romney effectively attacked him from the right on immigration using inflammatory rhetoric and embracing far-right policies. As Gingrich’s popularity rose, Romney used the same tactics during a month-long assault. While his demagoguery may have damaged his Republican rivals, it has caused permanent problems for Romney with Hispanic voters and pushed the entire Republican Party to the fringe on immigration.
In the Pew Hispanic Poll released this week, Romney’s falls substantially behind even John McCain’s anemic performance with Hispanic voters, receiving only 23% compared to McCain’s 31%. Compared to other Republicans, Romney specifically is weak with Hispanic voters, where he has a much larger gap between his overall support and support from Hispanic voters.
Much to the chagrin of their party’s strategists, the House budget continues to serve as a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates. Upon its passage in the House, Republicans fell over each other to praise Chairman Paul Ryan and his plan that would replace Medicare with a voucher program. It was April when Newt Gingrich suffered what was considered a fatal blow to his campaign by criticizing the plan as “right-wing social engineering.” Soon after Mitt Romney came out for the plan, saying he would sign it into law. Now, in the month before Iowa, Romney has touted his strong support for the plan and harshly attacked Gingrich for his past statement.
Embracing a plan that would essentially end Medicare may earn cheers at DC Republican cocktail parties but the plan would be devastating for the middle class. It has consistently fallen among the most unpopular policy proposals because the budget illuminates in stark terms the Republican priorities: massive cuts to health care for seniors in order to pay for even larger tax cuts for the very wealthiest.
Next year, the Republican nominee will try to convince voters to forget their 2011 embrace of right-wing policies that hurt the middle class. But our New Year’s resolution is to make sure voters remember.
In Iowa, Romney Promised to Veto DREAM Act. [LA Times, 1/1/12]
Romney Has Focused on Heated Rhetorical Attacks on Immigration. According to the Washington Post, “In dealing with the issue of immigration, Mitt Romney’s 2012 strategy is exactly like his 2008 strategy — run to the right, liberally use the words “amnesty” and “magnet,” and occasionally refer to illegal immigrants as simply “illegals.”” [Washington Post, 11/28/11]
Romney Focused Attacks on Gingrich Over Immigration. According to The LA Times, “Romney also took on Newt Gingrich for his comments on illegal immigration at Tuesday's debate. He said what Gingrich was describing amounted to "a new doorway for amnesty" and he noted that Gingrich voted for amnesty in the past. "We make a mistake as a Republican Party to try and describe which people who come here illegally should be given amnesty to be able to jump ahead of line of the people who have been waiting in line," he said. "It’s the wrong course for a Republican debate.”[LA Times, 11/23/11]
Romney Campaign Strategy Focused on Moving to Right of Perry by Attacking on Immigration. According to the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen, “The Romney campaign also plans to use immigration to drive a wedge between Perry and his conservative base, by highlighting Perry's opposition to a border fence and legislation he signed in 2001 allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition. Without mentioning Perry by name, Romney pointed out at a town hall here in Dover that he vetoed similar legislation as governor of Massachusetts, declaring, "If you say, guess what, if you come here illegally, your kids will get (in-state tuition), that draws more people here illegally."”[Washington Post, 8/29/11]
Romney Falling Behind Even McCain’s Poor Performance Among Hispanic Voters. In the latest Pew Hispanic Center poll, Romney received only 23% of Hispanic voters, below John McCain’s 31% in 2008. Of the Republican candidates tested against Obama, Romney has the largest gap between his overall support and his support among Hispanic voters. [Pew Hispanic Center, 12/28/11]
From August to October, Romney Has Lost 12 Points Against Obama With Hispanic Voters. Since August, when Rick Perry entered the race, Romney has lost 12 points in a head to head matchup with President Obama among Hispanic voters. This shift took place while, among all voters, Romney lost only 5 points against Obama. [August 16-27 Q Poll; October 25-31 Q Poll]
Even If They Agree With a Candidate on the Economy, Hispanic Voters Say Anti-Immigrant Statements Would Make Them Less Likely to Support. According to a Univision/ABC News poll of Latino voters, 59% of Latinos said they would be less likely to support a candidate who they agreed with on the economy but made a statement like “illegal immigrants are a threat to America who have committed a crime, we can never support amnesty for illegals.” [Univision/ABC News, 11/8/11]
Study: Hispanic Voting Will Increase by 2.5 Million or 26% Over 2008. According to a Fox News report on a study by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, “About 9.7 million Hispanics cast ballots in the November 2008 election that brought Barack Obama to the White House, compared with 7.6 million who did so in 2004, the study notes. That participation is increasing and according to the report's projections this will be reflected in the 2012 election, when the Latino vote is anticipated to increase by 26 percent to 12.2 million voters, or 8.7 percent of the country's total.” [Fox News Latino, 6/24/11]
Mitt Romney said he would sign the House budget authored by Paul Ryan. ABC News reported that “On health care, Romney responded ‘yes’ when asked if he would sign the plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan that would restructure Medicare if it reached his desk as President, but quickly added that he would be offering his own plan.” [ABC News, 6/2/11]
Romney attacked Newt Gingrich for not supporting the House budget authored by Paul Ryan. According to the Washington Post, "After previously hedging on the Ryan plan, Romney is now fully declaring his support for it, as a way to wound the surging Newt Gingrich among conservative voters. Newt, you’ll recall, famously referred to the Ryan plan as “right wing social engineering,” and Romney, in a post on his Web site, has revived this Newt quote, and is suggesting he’d sign it into law as president, in order to portray himself as the only true conservative in the race. “With friends like Newt, who needs the left?” the Romney Web site now blares." [Washington Post, 12/8/11]
Wall Street Journal: GOP Plan Would “Essentially End Medicare.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]
Los Angeles Times: “Seniors Would End Up Paying Almost Twice As Much.” According to the Los Angeles Times, “But because commercial insurers cost more to run than government plans, the Wisconsin Republican's proposal to privatize Medicare starting in 2022 would actually spark a dramatic increase in how much the nation spends on healthcare for the elderly, according to an independent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Even as the federal government cut its own spending, seniors would end up paying almost twice as much out of their own pockets — or more than $12,510 a year, the CBO estimates. Altogether, the total cost of insurance would be higher.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/7/11]
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow: “Most of the savings from spending reductions would go to finance tax cuts.” According to Henry Aaron, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, “Ryan justifies such cuts in the name of deficit reduction. In fact, deficit reduction would be minimal. Most of the savings from spending reductions would go to finance tax cuts - including cuts in the top tax rates from 39.6% to 25% for those who make $375,000 or more. And most of the rest of the claimed savings are illusory. Ryan's baseline assumes that military ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq will continue indefinitely. If one recognizes that these ventures will end, deficit reduction over the next decade would be just $155 billion, a tenth of what Ryan claims.” [Brookings, 4/10/11]
The House budget authored by Paul Ryan is unpopular with a majority of Americans. According to CNN, "A new national poll indicates that a majority of Americans don't like what they've heard so far about congressional Republicans' plans to change Medicare. […] The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal." [CNN, 6/1/11]