We're seeing a spate of op-eds about how Mitt Romney can increase the number of Latinos voting for him. They all point to roughly the same conclusion: embrace immigration reform. What's bizarre, though, is the almost lack of recognition about the political consequences. Michael Gerson tosses this off at the end of his column:
The Republican embrace of immigration opponents will eventually deprive every other element of conservatism (pro-defense, pro-life, pro-business) of national influence.
That's it. No big deal, just deprive your base of its influence. In essence, then, he is explaining precisely why Romney likely won't do so well.
The rubber will hit the road, so to speak, during the debates. Romney's message is that President Obama has failed at immigration reform, and that he can do it. He will then be challenged a) about congressional Republican resistance to immigration reform; and b) the specifics of his proposal. His answers to a and b have a good chance at alienating his base.
In short, Romney will have to calculate the net gain of voters. Increasing the share of Latino votes means losing votes elsewhere. But how many?