Dana Milbank noted last week, "When it comes to Latino voters, Republicans must have un impulso suicida. What else but a death wish could explain the party's treatment of the fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation?"
Given recent events, it's a reasonable question. Mitt Romney, in particular, seems to be going out of his way to antagonize Latino voters, as part of his desperate bid to impress his party's base. In last night's debate, for example, he was asked about his preferred approach to immigration policy, and Romney responded, "I think you see a model in Arizona."
Arizona, of course, has become synonymous with needlessly drastic and excessive anti-immigrant policies, and if the former governor intends to use the state as a model if he's elected president, it sends an unmistakable signal to Latino voters about what to expect from a Romney administration. It's why Democrats quickly pounced on the answer, releasing this video overnight:
If it were just one area of immigration policy in which Romney moved to the far-right edge of his party, it might be a little easier for him to appear more sensible when he reinvents himself again and starts making appeals for general-election votes. But it's actually every meaningful area of the debate that's proving to be problematic -- Romney is an inflexible opponent of the DREAM Act; he's palling around with Pete Wilson and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; he endorses a "self-deportation" agenda; he's critical of bilingualism; and his casual dismissals of "amnesty" and "illegals" are a staple of his campaign rhetoric.
Romney, by any reasonable measure, is the most right-wing candidate on immigration of any competitive presidential hopeful in generations.
Lionel Sosa, a Texas strategist who advised George W. Bush and John McCain on appealing to Latino voters, recently told the New York Times, "[Romney] can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote. He's not going to gain it again."
Given the size and significance of this constituency, that's an enormous risk for an already-unpopular candidate to take.