Mitt Romney’s “off the cuff” comments offend potential voters

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently said that he would have a “better chance” of winning the election had his parents been born Mexican.

The comment was part of a video tape that showed him speaking to supporters at a Florida fundraising dinner in a private home. “My dad [was] born in Mexico. Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this, but he was unfortunately born of Americans living in Mexico,” Romney said according to the video.

According to Fox News Latino, Romney has not apologized for his comment, but stated that his comments were “off the cuff.” On Tuesday, Yohanna de la Torre, a “Romney for President” spokesperson, said that his comment is “proof that he recognizes that Hispanics are critically important to the future of the Republican Party, and our country.”

[quote style=”boxed”]“It implies that Latinos have a “herd” mentality and would blindly vote for anyone of Latino heritage without considering where that candidate stands on the issues.”
-Dr. Christopher Malone, Chair of the Department of Political Science[/quote]

The Huffington Post reported that Alberto Martinez, a Romney campaign spokesman, said that this year’s Republican campaign “has focused more time, energy and resources on Hispanic outreach than any Republican presidential campaign in recent history.” Throughout the campaign, Romney has boasted his “Mexican roots”, as well as his appreciation for the Latino community. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all have roots in Mexico, which is a part of his family history that he speaks of frequently and proudly.

Brett Meyers, sophomore, said that this statement “is not only unprofessional but absolutely rude for him to say something like that of any American citizen.” As far as support for Romney goes, Meyers also mentions that Romney’s “main draw” is his stand on particular social issues, so as far as his popularity among voters goes, “it can really go either way.”

Dr. Christopher Malone, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, said that, “All polls indicate that Mitt Romney was having enormous difficulty connecting with Latino voters, and this comment will certainly not help him, politically. But more than that, the comment is simply bizarre and factually specious, since it implies that someone of Mexican descent would have an easier time ascending to the presidency than someone of European descent. The fact is that no Latino has ever been nominated by a party to even run for president, and before Barack Obama all presidents had been European American males. Further, it implies that Latinos have a “herd” mentality and would blindly vote for anyone of Latino heritage without considering where that candidate stands on the issues. In other words, Romney doesn’t have an ethnicity problem as much as he has a policy problem with the Latino community.”

Democrats and Latinos alike have been highly critical of these recently released comments. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-Cal), said that Romney’s comment is the “insult of all insults”, saying that if he was Latino he would have a better chance at winning the election “as if being Latino would have given him any advantage to win the White House.” The tapes also brought to light Romney’s other controversial statements, one big one being his comment about the 47 percent of voters who will vote for Obama because they depend heavily on government support. A CBS News story reports that Romney claims these 47 percent believe “that they are victims” who feel that it is the government’s job to care for them and believe that they are “entitled” to things like health care, food and housing. Romney claims that it is not his job “to worry about these people” who pay no income tax, and he indicates that it is not his concern: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Part of what Romney says about the “47 percent” is true: according to a poll from the Tax Policy Center, roughly 47 percent of Americans in 2012 did not pay income tax. Many of these people, however, had lower incomes and higher payroll taxes. He does have one demographic on his side, a CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 53 percent of voters 65 and older support Romney, while only 38 percent of this age group support Obama.

According to the Huffington Post, the Democratic Party was “not quick to expound” on the footage; Vice President Joe Biden simply said that “words speak for themselves”. CNN spoke to several democratic voters who had stronger reactions to the tapes. One voter stated that this footage indicates that Romney is “out of touch” and thinks that “half of the country is feeling like victims.” Another voter stated, “As a president, if you try to separate by demographics, [you’re] not really a president.”

It is difficult to tell what kind of effect Romney’s comments will have on Latino voters and Romney supporters. In a poll from ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012, Latino support for Romney “has declined every week to its current low of 24 percent,” a pattern that is “unmistakable” and “statistically significant.”

Others, feel that the former governor’s comments were not intended to be offensive. Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American “rising star” and member of the GOP, said that Romney “meant it as a joke,” and that is “how most reasonable people would take it,” according to CNN.

Samantha Krushinsky, sophomore, agrees, saying “It wasn’t meant to be a public comment, and it shouldn’t discredit him as our potential president.”

Although the polls state that Obama has the majority of Latino voters on his side, Romney’s team remains confident that they have the support and resources that they need to keep up a successful campaign.