Election 2012: Mitt Romney's "A Better America Begins Tonight" - But for Whom?

Mitt Romney needed at least 97 delegates to reach the 1,144 needed to clinch the Republican nomination, according to the Associated Press, which will be formalized at the GOP national nominating convention in Tampa, Florida.  He got 105.  Soon after, the Romney campaign released “A Better America Begins Tonight” ad, laser-focusing on the general election and President Obama.

It’s slickly produced, evoking “Americana” with a country barn, plenty of red, white, and blue, a cameo of cute kids, Romney’s wife Ann, and their sons.  Romney speaks about unleashing free enterprise to kick the economy into high gear, leading to “help wanted” signs dusted off to be hung in business windows.  The message is simple: a Romney presidency will uplift America and Americans.

I watched (er, studied) the ad, really trying to find someone who looks like me (while perfectly aware that Latinos come in every shape, form, and size, ranging from blonde Brazilian bombshell Giselle Bündchen to the late dark-skinned Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz). It was tough.

Not once does he mention reforming the immigration system, an issue that doesn’t outrank the economy or jobs as I detail in ¿It’s the economía, estúpido?, even though it is an emotional hot button issue for the emerging Latino community and vote.  Or that an overhaul could grow our tax base and keep the best and brightest immigrants studying here.  (There’s this family-values bonus: an overhaul could keep mixed-immigration status families together.)

Then my ears perked up when I heard, “the dreamers can dream a little bigger.”  He was referring to people who have big dreams and plans as in starting a business, not the illegal immigrant college students or service members seeking legalization, aka the DREAMers. (DREAM comes from the acronym for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.)  Hey, maybe these DREAMers also hope to one day open a shop, a restaurant or a medical practice.  I looked on his campaign website for signs of “compassionate conservatism” and instead found Romney’s opposition as governor to in-state tuition for illegal students because he believes it’s a “magnet”--a benefit that attracts the undocumented to the U.S.

It’s conventional political wisdom that a candidate “mainstreams” once he has the nomination to lure powerful voting blocs, such as independents and women, because it’s a coalition of voters that wins the general election.  Latinos are an emerging group, but if the Romney campaign continues ignoring us as it does in “A Better America Begins Tonight,” I predict the impact of that bad political calculation will be felt in November and beyond, as the Republican party finds it’s outnumbered with no foothold in the nation’s future.

Tell us: Do you think Mitt Romney will “mainstream” for November and appeal to voters beyond the conservative Republican base?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.