Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Obama, Romney make same mistake on Hispanics

By Ana Navarro, CNN Contributor
July 10, 2012 -- Updated 1400 GMT (2200 HKT)
A bilingual sign directs voters to a polling station in Phoenix, Arizona.
A bilingual sign directs voters to a polling station in Phoenix, Arizona.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ana Navarro: La Raza disappointed neither candidate is attending its conference
  • This is bad strategy, she says; the Hispanic gathering is a big political platform
  • Navarro: Obama needs to shore up Latino vote in anticipation of Romney PACs attack ads
  • Hispanics don't trust Romney, and he could score points just for showing up, Navarrro writes

Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.

(CNN) -- This week, the National Council of La Raza is hosting its annual conference in Las Vegas. The group is the biggest kid on the Hispanic block. Starting with George H.W. Bush, every Democrat and Republican president and nominee has addressed the conference. This year, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is doing so.

This is surprising in a year when plenty has been said about the importance of the Latino vote. Romney needs to do better than John McCain did in 2008. Obama needs to recapture Latino lightning in a bottle. He needs a wide margin of victory among Latinos and a high voter turnout.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at this week's conference. The National Council of La Raza won't get the top dog. It will get the attack dog. You can send a No. 2 to burials and weddings of foreign leaders and to conferences you don't want to attend.

It's hard to express disappointment about merely getting the U.S. vice president to show up. Romney doesn't have a running mate. His campaign sent former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez as a surrogate. The National Council of La Raza said the agenda was full and didn't give him a speaking slot.

Voters: What do you think of neither candidate showing up?

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

Surely, if Obama or Romney had made a last-minute decision to attend, an opening would have miraculously materialized. After more than 20 years of having the nominees themselves address their conference, accepting a surrogate would set a bad precedent and make it easier for future nominees to skip the conference.

Obama and Romney are passing up a great political opportunity. Speeches in front of different constituency groups are less about the conferees in the room and more about a platform to speak to the millions outside. These appearances get blanket coverage in English and Spanish media. The conference is in Nevada, a swing state. Every time Obama or Romney has the chance to make a showing in the state, they should jump at it.

Latino vote may decide 2012 election
Latino vote up for grabs

Obama is basking in the afterglow of a couple of recent decisions. Latinos overwhelmingly support his policy change benefiting undocumented young people who were brought here as minors. Second, the Supreme Court's decision to reverse most of Arizona's SB 1070 but keep its most controversial provision has further helped position Obama. His Department of Justice has declared that it will not cooperate with Arizona in its enforcement.

Romney may not be forcing a mano-a-mano battle with Obama on immigration, but Republican super PACs will. Spanish media will be inundated with negative ads about the president's broken immigration promises and economic failures.

It is folly for Obama to think he has done enough to repair the strained relationship with disillusioned Latinos who've lived through the highest deportation rates in history and an 11% unemployment rate. Obama cannot afford to have Latinos stay home. His advantage with Latino voters will carry less of a punch if he doesn't come close to the 2008 turnout.

Romney has a different problem. Most Hispanics don't really know much about him. The little they do know, the majority doesn't like. He needs to change hearts, minds and voter intentions, or he can say adios to the White House. National Council of La Raza members are predominantly Democrats, and many hold Romney's immigration positions against him.

It's not an easy crowd for Romney. Precisely because of that, he would score points just for showing up. This is particularly true since Obama is not.

To his credit, this week, Romney is speaking at the NAACP Convention, another meeting Obama is passing on.

Romney doing back-to-back events at NCLR and NAACP would send a powerful message of inclusiveness that would be noticed beyond those two communities. Attending the National Council of La Raza Conference would be an opportunity for Romney to show a commitment to Latinos and highlight Obama's absence from the conference and from the immigration debate until it came time for re-election.

Romney spoke in front of another Latino organization last month. It felt like an awkward first date, but he showed he is not afraid to address difficult subjects in front of a skeptical audience. It also earned him much-needed coverage in Spanish media. Romney has not sat down with any of the major Spanish media outlets since the Florida primary in January.

If he battles Obama for the heart and soul of Latinos, he still won't win a majority of the vote. But he could narrow the gap. Just one president ago, Republican George W. Bush earned 44% of the Hispanic vote. Republicans can compete for the Hispanic vote, but we need a good messenger delivering the right message. If Romney wants to get his foot in the door, he better start by knocking.

It is a mistake for Obama to skip the National Council of La Raza Conference. It is an even bigger mistake for Romney.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT