Republicans have an opening to steal some of the Latino vote, given that President Obama's approval rating among them has hit a new low, but the candidates will have a hard time winning them if they keep throwing red meat to their anti-immigration base. The candidates referred to illegal immigrants as "illegals" ten times in the Las Vegas debate Tuesday, most notably when Mitt Romney responded to Rick Perry's accusation that he'd hired undocumented workers by saying, "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals." Romney "can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote ... He’s not going to gain it again," Republican strategist Lionel Sosa told The New York Times' Trip Gabriel. Sosa advised George W. Bush and John McCain on winning over Latinos.
PERRY: ... but we have a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, and the fact is we have a huge number of illegals that are coming into this country.And they're coming into this country because the federal government has failed to secure that border. But they're coming here because there is a magnet. And the magnet is called jobs. And those people that hire illegals ought to be penalized.And Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year ...ROMNEY: Rick, I don't think I've ever hired an illegal in my life. And so I'm afraid -- I'm looking forward to finding your facts on that, because that just doesn't --PERRY: And they want to hear you say that you knew you had illegals working at your --ROMNEY: ... When you were governor, you said, I don't want to build a fence. You put in place a magnet ...You put in place a magnet to draw illegals into the state, which was giving $100,000 of tuition credit to illegals that come into this country, and then you have states -- the big states of illegal immigrants are California and Florida. Over the last 10 years, they've had no increase in illegal immigration.PERRY: You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property. And the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.ROMNEY: OK.You wrote an op-ed in the newspaper saying you were open to amnesty. That's number one.Number two, we hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there. And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go ...So we went to the company and we said, look, you can't have any illegals working on our property. I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals.