President Barack Obama’s top campaign officials said Wednesday that the Republican candidates’ intensifying efforts to appeal to the most conservative segment of the GOP were alienating Hispanics and other potential voters.
Citing a Fox News Latino poll released this week that showed that Latino voters favor Obama by six-to-one over any of the Republican presidential hopefuls, the president’s re-election adviser David Axelrod recalled the hard-line positions that front-runner Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates have taken on immigration.
“This Republican debate should be very concerning to people in Hispanic communities across this country,” Axelrod said in a telephonic press conference. “Because you know you’ve seen particularly Gov. Romney use the Latino community as foils to try and gain advantage over his candidates.”
They said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has shifted so far to the right that in an effort to court them he has said and done things that would doom him in the general election. Axelrod and Messina said that the rhetoric during the GOP primaries has driven away Independent and middle class voters, besides Latinos.
The Fox News Latino poll, conducted under the direction of Latin Insights, shows that the overwhelming choice among the 1,200 likely Latino voters surveyed is President Obama. In head-to-head match-ups none of the GOP candidates would garner more than 14 percent of the Latino vote come November, the poll said.
"Whether it is the gas prices shooting up, record debt, out-of-control spending or higher unemployment, the Obama Administration has failed the Latino community," said RNC Spokesperson Alexandra Franceschi. "Team Obama will have a difficult time covering up his record of broken promises and failed policies that have taken our country in the wrong."
Romney has voiced support for strict immigration enforcement, and has vowed to be tough on undocumented immigrants if he is elected president.
Other GOP presidential hopefuls also have taken hard-line stances on illegal immigration, but Romney has been particularly bold in expressing his views.
During a recent campaign stop in Arizona, he praised the state’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law and called it a model for the nation. Critics of the law say it encourages profiling of Latinos and other immigrants.
“The suggestion of mass deportations and particularly the embrace of the Arizona policy which so stigmatizes Hispanic Americans,” Axelrod said. “We’ve seen such ugliness and divisiveness around these issues and to embrace it and give it your imprimatur is an affront.”
“I don’t believe, by the way, that Latino voters are single-issue voters by any stretch of the imagination,” he added. “I think issues like education, like support for small business, job training, healthcare – these are primary issues and on these issues all the Republicans fall flat because they’d rather give large tax cuts to the wealthy than support the kinds of things we need to grow this country.”
Axelrod and Messina said they will remind Romney, or whoever Obama’s GOP opponent turns out to be, of the positions taken during the GOP primary.
“In terms of just stigmatizing the [Hispanic] community, a lot of damage has been done in this Republican race,” Axelrod said. “There is this attitude on the part of some over there in the Romney camp that they can just wipe the slate clean, that they can get the nomination and that all that was said in the past just goes away.”
“That’s not the way this works,” he said. “They’ve done real and lasting damage [to relations with Hispanics] and frankly they deserve it."
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Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.