Herman Cain’s short-lived presidential run raises a big question for the GOP: How can the Republican Party attract black and Latino voters in numbers large enough to swing the election its way?
A recent poll of black and Latino voters in battleground states finds they are poised to turn out in 2012. A hefty 90 percent of black and Latino voters in swing states say they are very likely to vote. And of those, 50 percent are more interested in voting than in 2008, according to the poll commissioned by the group I work for, the Women of Color Policy Network. (The poll was conducted by Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies, and the sample size was 800 people.)
While many thought Cain was a contender, blacks and Latinos never saw it that way. In battleground states, Cain’s favorability rating was a low 20 percent. And among black women and Latinas, a meager 2 percent of likely voters held a favorable view of Cain.
Sexual harassment allegations aside, it was Cain’s conservative views that did him in with racial and ethnic minorities. His answer to high unemployment and discrimination was to tell people to work harder. His answer to immigration was to propose building a tall, electrified fence with barbed wire and a sign on the other side saying that it can kill you. He came off as out of touch with the reality of black and Latino communities.
Other GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney among them, will likely face similar challenges to winning the support of black and Latino voters, who rank the economy and education as their top concerns. And while these issues may top the list of GOP candidates as well, black and Latino voters believe Democrats have a better approach to dealing with these problems, 72 percent compared to 11 percent.
Republicans need a game plan and new playbook.
Their attempt to come up with an alternative to President Barack Obama has failed again. First they tried out Michael Steele, who headed the Republican National Committee, and now they pushed Cain forward.
The GOP should realize that cheap tricks and shortcuts to winning the support of black and Latino communities will not work. Devising real solutions and policy strategies to ease high unemployment, create quality jobs and fix the broken immigration and public school systems is what it will take to win over voters.
• Mason is an assistant research professor and the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.