February 20, 2008

Did McCain's Win Doom Their November Strategy?

The Washington Post reports that John McCain's unexpected rise from the politically dead has created a big problem for the Democrats. They saw an opportunity to win the presidency by turning the interior West into a blue zone, using the Hispanic vote to overwhelm the GOP in one of its traditional strongholds. McCain has thrown a wrench into those plans, and Barack Obama may also present a problem:

For Democrats, 2008 was supposed to be the year of the Mountain West, when three years of relentless Republican attacks on undocumented immigrants would fuel a backlash among Hispanics that would change the playing field in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and perhaps alter the landscape of presidential politics for a generation.

But the emergence of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as the likely standard-bearer for the GOP may have scrambled the equation, cooling a potential political revolt among Hispanics and sending Democrats in search of a new playbook. ...

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose Tucson district is heavily Hispanic, said Democrats should change their tack toward Latinos and emphasize the economy, education and health care before even raising the immigration issue. Perhaps Democrats seeking the Latino vote would be best served challenging McCain on the Iraq war, suggested Guillermo Nicacio, Arizona state coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, an effort to encourage Latinos to apply for citizenship, register and vote.

Even as McCain moves to heal intraparty wounds on the immigration issue, Democratic community organizers in the West say his past battles with other Republicans over a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants left an imprint on the Latino community that will not quickly fade.

The Democrats thought they had the GOP on the ropes. They selected Denver for their convention, much as the GOP chose St Paul, to attempt to turn a battleground state into a solid backer for their ticket. They moved up the Nevada caucus to make the region more important to the nominating process. All of this effort and attention will likely come to naught as the Republicans nominate the candidate that most appeals to that constituency, and the Democrats nominate the one who appeals least.

That's not to say that McCain will win the Latino vote. He doesn't have to win it as much as he needs to keep Obama's margin small. Given his continued outreach to the Hispanic community at the expense of his standing within his party, that appears to be a realistic goal. George Bush won the 2004 election with a Hispanic vote somewhere in the mid-30s. If McCain can get within 5 points of Obama, he can easily beat him throughout the Southwest.

Nevertheless, both parties have plenty of time to re-strategize for November. At the moment, though, the interior West looks a lot less friendly for Democrats than they imagined. (via Memeorandum)


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