Friday 9 December 2016

David Usborne: Anti-immigrant backlash could trip up Romney

David Usborne in Arizona

Published 28/02/2012 | 05:00

Republican Mitt Romney has adopted a hard-line policy on immigration. Photo: Reuters
Republican Mitt Romney has adopted a hard-line policy on immigration. Photo: Reuters

Whoever among the Republican presidential hopefuls wins Arizona tonight -- and polls suggest it will be Mitt Romney -- they may in the process have lost it, too. The state is on the frontline in the battle over illegal immigration and their rhetoric on the issue will have pleased white conservatives -- but not most Latinos.

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To predict that this state will flip from red to blue in November would be premature. Only once since Truman has it voted to send a Democrat to the White House in the shape of Bill Clinton in 1996. This is the territory of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer, heroes to conservatives whose careers are bound together by their determination to target undocumented workers. It is also where SB 1070 came to be, the now infamous immigration enforcement law passed by the Arizona legislature that is so draconian that the US Justice Department is seeking to have it blocked.

Yet if Arizona has served in the last years as the poster child of the anti-illegal immigration lobby, it might emerge in 2012 as the ground zero of a backlash. There are stirrings of optimism among Democrats that infuriated Latinos may help President Barack Obama not only steal Arizona from the Republicans in November, but help him build a whole new national coalition to return him to power.

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