Race Will Be a Major Issue for Mitt Romney
Nothing can stop him in the primaries, but GOP issues with race will not go away
January 11, 2012
After strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, it seems likely now that former Gov. Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination this year. His opposition is weak and fractured. And the strength of Rep. Ron Paul has made it even harder for one of the anti-Romneys to consolidate the very sizable anti-Romney vote.
So what is left to look for in the coming days? There will be a lot of discussion about the ability of Romney to win non-economic elites, evangelicals, and independents. As we head into the Sunbelt phase of the early GOP race, we will be reminded that since 1956 only twice have the Republicans nominated someone from outside the Sunbelt—Gerald Ford in 1976, Bob Dole Dole in 1996—and both times those candidates lost in the general election. We will hear more about what kind of capitalism and economy we want to have, something that will be central to the fall election.
But what may be most interesting is that the GOP field now moves on to three states—South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada—with sizable minority populations, something we did not find in Iowa or New Hampshire. If the campaign continues through early February, we should expect to see the Republican field have to address a subject not very comfortable for the modern GOP—race. There is a Republican debate next Monday in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Day. Campaigning in Florida and Nevada will force the candidates to confront the mess the GOP has made of its relationship with Latinos.
As our nation is on track to become a majority minority country by about 2040, crafting a governing philosophy that truly acts as if we are all in this together, "e pluribus unum" as our dollar bills says, is one of the great political challenges of our time. The Democrats so far are passing this test. The Republicans and particularly Mitt Romney—who has campaigned as one the most virulent anti-immigrant politicians of the modern era—not so much. While Mitt may appear unstoppable today in the GOP primary field, one thing that may stop him cold in the fall is his very reactionary and unappealing approach to race, Latinos, and the America we are becoming.