Some Latino leaders are saying Mitt Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate was “out of touch” with Hispanic voters.
Two others on the shortlist for vice president were expected to have more sway with the Latino vote — estimated at between 10 and 12 million this November. But both Florida Senator Marco Rubio — who was seen as a highly favored shortlister — and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, more of a longshot, were passed over for Ryan.
Several Latino organizations and affiliated programs — including the National Council of La Raza and AARP — have previously expressed dismay about Ryan’s budget plan. And early Saturday several political analysts pointed to Ryan’s budget decisions in the past and said other Latino contenders would have brought more diversity to the Republican ticket.
They said the choice shows Romney has given up on trying to woo the Latino vote.
“It’s not the sort of pick that will capture the attention of Latino voters,” Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions told VOXXI, adding that a majority of Hispanics have never heard of Paul Ryan.
Barreto said data from 2011 surveys show Latino voters may not support the House Budget Committee chairman’s deficit plan, which would transform Medicare into a program where future seniors would receive government checks, called vouchers, that they could use to purchase health insurance. It would also cut spending for Medicaid, as well as food stamps, student loans and other social programs that President Barack Obama and Democrats have pledged to defend.
Asked whether they thought it was a good idea to reduce spending on Medicare to address the national deficit, 73% of Latino voters said they oppose cuts to Medicare and only 22% support it. Asked how to address the national deficit, a whopping 83% majority of Latinos supported taxes on the wealthy in combination with cuts.
“I think he’s going to have a very hard time selling his plan to cut government spending on very important services in the Latino community,” Barreto told VOXXI about the man who is now vice president on the Republican ticket.
Ryan’s budget plan aims to cut $5.8 trillion over 10 years from projected federal spending to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion in the same time span. Programs like food stamps, would see more than $900 trillion in reductions, according to news reports.
It would also cut federal income tax rates for individuals and corporations to 25 percent from 35 percent. The tax breaks would help alleviate revenue loss.
Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels, told VOXXI he’s skeptical for now that Latinos are looking into the policies and beyond the politics. He said the pick is “out of touch” with present circumstances.
“I think it’s just another lost opportunity by the Republican Party to try and capitalize on increasing voter appeal among U.S. Latinos,” he said. “I’ve always firmly believed that there was a large base of U.S. Latino voters that were looking toward different options in deciding whether to vote for the president or not.”
He said it’s a disappointment for those who were hoping to see Rubio, Martinez or Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval, another name floated, on the ticket.
“If it were Rubio, Martinez or Sandoval he might have gotten the bump, if that was a demographic they wanted to capitalize,” Varela added. ““I think a lot of U.S. Latino voters are still kind of voting with their hearts, and it’s a disappointing choice.”
Varela clarified that as an organization, Latino Rebels, does not advocate for a particular side and that they have been pretty consistent in how off-target the GOP has been since the primary season. But at the same time, they have also been critical of Obama’s administration, particularly with SuperPac comments, Chimichangate, the “Fast and Furious” fiasco and, of course, immigration.
It also sharpens the debate among both parties and, analysts say, it’s certain to heighten the tension this election year.
Angelo Falcon of the National Institute of Latino Policy echoed Varela’s statements, saying that the choice means Romney is not going to make “any dramatic deals with Latinos.” He said it now opens the line of attack for Obama against Romney because Ryan’s ideas and strategies are more focused and, therefore, easier to direct clear messages on.
“While Romney was playing up to the right-wing base, he might have been seen even as a centrist. Now with Ryan, there’s a connection there in terms of specific policy changes,” Falcon told VOXXI.
Nonetheless, the implication this will have on the Latino vote for November is still up in the air. And several Latino civic organizations were quick to indicate that this will lessen the appeal for Romney’s camp.
Gabe Gonzalez, the national campaign director for the Campaign for Community Change, stated that Romney’s pick is “an enormous gift for Democrats” because he projects it will significantly increase their chances for the fall.
“The Paul Ryan approach is immensely unpopular and every poll confirms it. Most importantly it’s the opposite of an agenda for prosperity,” he stated.
Likewise Hispanic Republicans defended Ryan’s Latino credentials pointing to his record and credibility toward the economy.
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said that, although Ryan first voted with U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba in 2000, 2002 and 2004, he has since come around on that debate.
“That was then. This is now,” Ros-Lehtinen told VOXXI. “I’ve talked to him. Many people have talked to him and he switched his vote. He realized what was really going on, the oppression of the Cuban government, and that that was not the way he should have voted.”
U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who sits on the Romney VP steering committee, says that the main issue for Hispanics is the economy, as it is for everyone else, and that Ryan’s positions will resonate with them.
“It is clear that Gov. Romney is serious about dealing with the most important issues facing our country – fixing the economy and creating jobs. Congressman Ryan, who is often referred to as a ‘fiscal warrior’, has prioritized these issues as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and will continue to do so as the vice presidential nominee,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement.
“The Romney/Ryan team will ensure that we get our country back to work and back on track.”