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Romney needs Hispanics more than they need him

Romney doesn’t grasp that playfully wishing he were Mexican-American is offensive to many Hispanics. His view of the Hispanic electorate seems simplistic and out of touch with the Latino experience. Hispanics do not vote based on ethnicity; we vote on policy.

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Mitt Romney addresses the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, Sept. 17. Op-ed contributor Raul Reyes says Romney's joke during his '47 percent' comments that 'it would be helpful to be Latino' to win the election 'shows poor taste.' He continues: 'Romney would “have a better shot of winning this” if he were running a more inclusive campaign.'

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Since a secretly recorded video from a Florida fundraiser surfaced, Americans have been considering what Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments reveal about the Republican presidential nominee. Many Latinos, however, have been discussing other remarks captured on the same recording.

That May evening, the former governor of Massachusetts reminded his donors that his father had been born to Americans living in Mexico. “Had he been born of Mexican parents,” Mr. Romney said, “I’d have a better shot of winning this.” He added, “I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

Romney doesn’t grasp that playfully wishing he were Mexican-American is offensive to many Hispanics. While he said he was kidding, his off-the-cuff humor is not funny considering his struggle to attract Latino voters. His view of the Hispanic electorate seems simplistic, and he is unfortunately out of touch with the Latino experience.

The notion of trading on race or ethnicity to win an election, even in jest, shows poor taste. Would it be amusing if Romney said that, if only he were African-American, he would do better against President Obama? Of course not. The standard should be no different for Hispanics.

Romney would “have a better shot of winning this” if he were running a more inclusive campaign. He turned off many potential Latino voters during the GOP primaries, when he staked out his positions on immigration. He vowed to veto the DREAM Act, called Arizona’s stringent illegal-immigration law a “model for the nation,” and championed the idea of “self-deportation.”

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