Republicans think putting up a spokesman like Rubio, who is Hispanic and in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, will help them make inroads with minorities. But all of the large minority groups — blacks, Hispanics and Asians — look much more favorably on government than whites do, seeing it as an entity that can and should help people get ahead rather than just getting out of the way.
In 2012, the Republican Party’s anti-government message left these groups cold, leading Romney to lose Hispanics by more than 2 to 1 and Asians by nearly 3 to 1. Immigration reform can’t overcome this message problem. As the country gets less and less white, reflexive “I Built It”-ism is only going to become more electorally costly to Republicans.
The Republican Party’s problem isn’t the messenger; it’s the broad economic message. To fix the message, Republicans need to be for smart government. They need to signal that they have a serious policy agenda that considers programs and regulations on a case-by-case basis, rather than just demagoguing the government. They need a real agenda on health care and jobs rather than just opportunistic opposition to anything the president does.