Republicans are missing an opening with Hispanic voters

But for Republicans pondering trends beyond the next election, the most depressing news comes from New Mexico. It is a state with the most popular Republican governor in America, also the first and only Latina governor in America. Susana Martinez recently recorded a 69 percent approval rating. Yet polls show Romney behind Obama in New Mexico by five to 14 points. The Romney campaign has essentially conceded the Land of Enchantment, pulling its communications director and Hispanic outreach coordinator to work elsewhere. …

Romney chose a different path during the primaries. In an attempt to allay conservative suspicions of his health-care record, Romney turned sharply rightward on immigration. He praised Arizona’s restrictive immigration law as a model for the country and criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s support for in-state college tuition benefits for the children of undocumented workers. If Romney loses a tight election — not a foregone conclusion — his support for “self-deportation” and ill-advised promise to veto the Dream Act may prove major contributing factors. Whatever the election’s outcome, these stands have complicated his electoral task in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Florida.

In this case, the workings of political karma are particularly cruel. Given persistent double-digit unemployment among Hispanics, and Obama’s cynical failure to push for immigration reform when he enjoyed House and Senate Democratic majorities, Republicans should have an opening with Latino voters. Even now, the enthusiasm of Hispanic voters for Obama is significantly lower than four years ago, which could help Romney’s prospects.