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Shields and Brooks on Latino Voters, Last-Minute Election Factors

November 2, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Judy Woodruff talks to NewsHour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks for analysis on the top news of the week, including the chances of immigration reform being addressed in the next presidential term, the latest jobs numbers and the political aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

It’s just another Friday. Not much going on.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Not at all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Not at all. So, we just heard that report, David, about immigration, the issue in Iowa.

How do you see the difference between the two candidates on immigration on the Latino — what is of concern to Latino voters?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Of course, it’s tough to know.

Barack Obama gave an interview to “The Des Moines Register” I guess a week or so ago which he thought at the time was off the record, though it was subsequently made on the record, and we now know what he said.

And one of the things he said was that he has plans for a second term. The first is to get over this fiscal cliff. And the second is to do a big push on immigration, so, a budget deal, then immigration reform. So, to him, immigration reform is the second big item on the agenda.

And yet it has barely come up in the last three or four months. He has not raised it, for obvious reasons. It is a tough issue. And Mitt Romney has not raised it, for obvious reason. And so I think, if Obama is reelected, I’m not so sure with Romney — I think my suspicion is, if Romney is reelected, it is not going to be a top priority.

MARK SHIELDS: Reelected?

DAVID BROOKS: Elected.

MARK SHIELDS: Elected.

DAVID BROOKS: I just gave him a cold chill.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: So if — maybe in the second term, it will be.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: If Obama is reelected, it will be.

And I suspect they would be happy to go back to what George W. Bush was trying to do a few years ago. But it is a tragedy that we haven’t really talked about it, because it is much harder to get something passed if it hasn’t been talked about.  

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

MARK SHIELDS: I think the Republican Party is cursed. And it’s cursed itself.

They spent 22 debates, presidential candidates arguing about who was the most against or the strongest for building the biggest, widest, most daunting, even electrified wall to keep people out. And Mitt Romney ran considerably to the right of Newt Gingrich, of Rick Perry. He was the most strident, round them all up and toss them out of the country.

Then the parties spend energy, time, and political capital to pass repressive legislation in state after state to make it more difficult to vote, primarily for Latinos. And, third, they don’t campaign in their neighborhoods or their community. They don’t ask for their vote.

And, finally, Mitt Romney, in his unguarded moment at Boca Raton in his 47 percent speech taped without his knowledge, says that he would be better off if he could run as a Latino because his father was born in Mexico.

I mean, if you are a 19- or 20-year-old Latino, this is going to cost your support for the Republican Party for a generation. They have ignored George W. Bush. They have ignored Jeb Bush, his brother, who has been quite enlightened on the subject and said, you cannot, in this country, continue to win only with white people’s votes.

And I just — I think that the very enlightened voices I heard in Iowa in the piece, you know, I hope the Republicans heed them, because we are looking at an election right now where Barack Obama will probably get over 70 percent of the Latino vote.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, a net negative for the Republicans?

DAVID BROOKS: Oh, yes, increasingly.

And I agree with the political analysis. I do think there is a pretty bipartisan, from Democrats, too, desire to close the border, to secure the border first, before they trust Washington to do anything on immigration reform.

But as far as the political prognosis goes, I don’t think you have to trust me. You can talk to Karl Rove. You can talk to Ken Mehlman, anybody who has run the Republican Party over the last 10 years. They can look at the demographics.

It is pretty simple and obvious that it has just been shrinking and that, within a few years, you have got swing states — maybe even not even swing states anymore — New Mexico, Nevada, or Texas starts becoming a swing state in four or eight years.

MARK SHIELDS: A blue state.

DAVID BROOKS: And so the trends are just so damn obvious, but they have walked the other way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the campaign, the rest of the campaign, Mark, jobs numbers out today. But how do they fit in and where does this stand right now?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, don’t pop the champagne. We’re a long way from 5 percent.

But, I mean, the jobs numbers were better than expected, which is always good. And they were increased from both August and September. They were higher.

And coupled with rising house prices, home prices, and the confidence and optimistic index being highest, it’s the highest in five years, this is all encouraging news.

I mean, it’s not determinative news, but it’s all encouraging news for an incumbent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it affect the campaign, do you think?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m not sure the last jobs numbers really have a huge effect.

In 1992, George H.W. Bush had bigger jobs numbers. He had really significant growth. People’s views on the economy had already been locked in. And so a lot of that is happening.

Nonetheless, if you look over the last couple of weeks of the campaign, you would have to say there have been a series of events that have helped the president, none of which are usually consequential in themselves, but together sort of add up to a “teense” of momentum.

And that would be the Colin Powell endorsement, the Bloomberg endorsement, the jobs numbers, a whole series of things that have sort of gone the president’s way.

And so, if you look at the polling, there has been a slight bit of movement nationally, rock-solid wins — or not wins — but leads in the swing states.

And then the final thing — and this is something you should really look for in a reelect race — what’s the president’s job approval number? That’s something that is just a very good indicator. And I looked this morning. And it was 49.5 or so, if you average a bunch of polls together.

That’s good enough. That’s putting you very close to being good enough to win. That’s about where…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Under 50 percent?

DAVID BROOKS: It’s under 50, but George W. Bush was very — was more or less around there when he got reelected. So, it is possible to win with a 49-plus job approval number.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it? This is the week of the storm. The president was off the campaign trail for a few days.

MARK SHIELDS: Sure. Two things.

I think David’s right about the job — the president’s job approval number. In fact, rather than averaging polls, I just went and looked at the same poll. Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked the same question in 2004, just before the election that they did in 2012.

The incumbent president then, George W. Bush, had a 49 percent favorable job rating, 48 percent unfavorable. Barack Obama is 49 percent favorable, 48 percent unfavorable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly…

MARK SHIELDS: Exactly the same. Right direction for the country, 41 percent then, 41 percent now.

And would you be pleased, positive if the president were reelected? Fifty percent said yes then; 50 percent say yes now. So — and George W. Bush won with 50.7 percent.

I think the biggest event, quite beyond either party’s control, was obviously the tragic Sandy storm, and the death and devastation it left in its wake.

But, at a time — Judy, only elected executives, mayor, governors or presidents, are legitimate spokespeople at a time like this.

It is interesting. I didn’t hear a single Grover Norquist small-government champion at the time when the storm comes down and we’re looking for help, we’re looking for whether it’s bringing in C-110s to — C-130s to bring in equipment, to de-flood the city, all the way around.

And I think the president stepped up, and he got an unanticipated validation from Gov. Christie, one of Mitt Romney’s strongest supporters, the keynoter at the convention, who said the president has been excellent. He’s been — gone beyond. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him, that FEMA had been phenomenal.

And you will recall, at the 2000 debates, first debate, Jim Lehrer asked George W. Bush, tell us one good thing about Bill Clinton. FEMA and James Lee Witt. And what was the tragedy of George W. Bush’s administration? FEMA and Michael Brown at the time of Katrina.

Barack Obama rebuilt it. And we are seeing the work and we’re seeing it respond.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think the storm could be making that much of a difference in the perception of the president?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think the perception, and you see activity, and you see the Chris Christie thing. People are saying, why is Christie doing this? Is he thinking about his own presidential ambitions or his own reelect ambitions?

I don’t think there is anything of that.

When you are the governor of a state, a state you love that is in your heart and soul, you feel an intense sense of stewardship. And when it gets walloped by a storm, the politics just seems irrelevant, I think, at that point.

And Christie has said this: I don’t care about the politics. If he is going to help me with my state, he is going to help the people of my state, then I’m grateful and I’m going to work with him.

And so I think it is as simple as that.

And I think you can — perfectly willing to hold the view that he’s not a good steward of the economy, he’s not good on budget negotiations, but he’s good on this. And we worked together on this. I don’t think that is politically inconsistent.

But, nonetheless, as a gestalt about where the election is, it’s people being reasonably confident. I think Bloomberg, Christie, Obama, they have emerged reasonably well out of this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just three more days until everybody goes to vote who is going to vote — there has been a lot of early voting.

MARK SHIELDS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, what are you looking for in these last few days? What are you listening for out there?

MARK SHIELDS: I guess, you know, Ohio as much as anything, Judy.

I mean, I don’t think — I have listened to the windup speeches, the closing arguments. They haven’t made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Maybe I’m missing something. Mitt Romney began by telling us he — I believe in America. He’s ending it, I believe in America.

Barack Obama says, I represent change, and don’t go back to where we were.

Romney is sort of the candidate of restoration, and Obama is the candidate of continuation. But I — you know, I don’t — there is no defining event, I guess, or statement that I’m looking for in the last couple of days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you hearing from the candidates?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I thought Mitt Romney gave maybe the best speech of his campaign today, sort of a little late. It was in Wisconsin. A number of people said it was a speech he should have given at the convention. It was more eloquent.

It wasn’t an original, new argument. But it was a more eloquent, a more beautifully phrased speech of why do you think the next four days years will be different than the last four, and things about business, the PTA doesn’t have a union, but President Obama will — he will really step short on education reform, because he has to answer to his political supporters.

So, it was familiar arguments, but phrased more beautifully.

Will it swing votes at this late date? Sort of dubious. But there have been occasions when votes have shifted in the last three days. I think of the DUI story which hit George W. Bush in 2000 — the first — 2000.

MARK SHIELDS: 2000, yes.

DAVID BROOKS: I think that did shift. But it takes something sort of extraordinary.

MARK SHIELDS: The thing I think that will stand out, if we hadn’t had Sandy, would have been the story of the week is the really shameless ad that the Romney people put on in Ohio that Chrysler was going to ship its production overseas to China, in spite of the fact that China — that Chrysler has already committed $500 million of creation of production in Toledo and 1,100 new jobs there.

But it was just — it was really scaring people, you know, that somehow the president had been part of bailing out Chrysler and GM in order to ship those jobs and the production overseas to China.

That was — and he got attacked by the most Republican papers in the state, including the Youngstown Vindicator, as just being an indefensible — and I just think it had to be the product of a conclusion that the auto bailout really was a mountain too high for him to climb, and they had to somehow destroy Obama’s credibility on the subject.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the Romney campaign is saying the ad is accurate, that it is factual.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, they seem to be the only ones, though, to be honest saying that.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And so one of the questions of the campaign is, does mendacity hurt you? Has anybody been hurt by doing a dishonest ad? So far, we haven’t seen all that much evidence.

I do think there is some evidence that people are just getting sick of it. They are saying this is the most dishonest race we have seen, though it is possible that some of the very early ads that Obama ran against Romney last summer could turn out to be the crucial things that turn the whole election, and I think a number of them were as dishonest, not maybe as dishonest as this one…

JUDY WOODRUFF: About Romney’s business.

DAVID BROOKS: …about Romney’s business career and what he was allegedly closing, when he had left Bain long before, and things like that.

But I hope somehow we learned a lesson that dishonesty doesn’t pay. But, so far, it’s hard to see. No one in the campaigns has drawn that lesson. They have drawn the lesson dishonesty pays.

MARK SHIELDS: This is one that brought General Motors and Chrysler off the sidelines. Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Chrysler, and GM saying, this is beyond anything in partisan politics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we don’t want the two of you to be on the sidelines. You are going to be right here with us next Monday, next Tuesday, as long as it takes until we know what the result is.

Mark Shields, David Brooks.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And Mark and David keep up the talk on The Doubleheader, recorded in our newsroom. That will be posted at the top of the Rundown later tonight.