Heller’s Hispanic Problem

Dean Heller made his bed. Now he might need to hide under the covers.

The Republican junior senator from Nevada has been receiving attention for his outreach to Hispanics. He announced a group of 125 Latinos who support him—which puts him about 125 ahead of the last Republican to run for the Senate from Nevada, Sharron Angle. And thus Heller’s dilemma.

He has a Hispanic group, Juntos con Heller (“Together with Heller”), and vocal backing from some Hispanic businesspeople. He wants immigration reform. Muy bueno.

But his English and Spanish language websites differ in what they say. The English site offers details about Heller’s belief that English should be the official national language, and his desire to end birthright citizenship, which would require him to change the Fourteenth Amendment—which isn’t a minor issue.  Interestingly, Heller’s Spanish language site says nothing about those views. Muy mal.

To which Heller could reasonably say, that’s politics, and he would be right, to a point. Candidates speak differently to different constituencies, whether it’s Las Vegans or rural Nevadans, or possibly men or women. But when they take different positions—or, more accurately in Heller’s case, a position they try to hide from a constituency—it tends to bite them in the culo (if you prefer French, derriere).

More crucially, Heller’s biggest problem here isn’t even himself. It’s partly that his opponent, Democrat Shelley Berkley, has been representing a significant portion of the Hispanic population in the House for more than a decade. She has easily won re-election for most of that time, and is so visible in the community that it wouldn’t be surprising that, if three constituents got together, she would happily be the fourth for bridge. Heller has a lot to overcome in that area.

But Heller’s bigger problem came into some relief the other day when Mitt Romney came to town for a fundraiser with his “friend,” Donald Trump. How much of a friend Trump actually is may be debated. He’s supporting Romney, whose campaign is offering as a funding ploy the chance to sit down with the two of them, so they are friendly enough.

Trump has gone full-birther, meaning that he is back to the specious claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Whether Romney could stop him if he wanted to is beside the point. He hasn’t criticized or repudiated him. Conducting fund-raisers with him is about as close to acceptance as you can get.

This doesn’t hurt Romney with the base, not because they love him so much as they can’t stand Obama. But what about independents or conservative Democrats?  How do they react to Trump and others who sound like the lunatic fringe?

Heller has a similar problem. His party has wrapped its arms around Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff who seems interested only in one crime—illegal immigration. A significant number of Republicans have made clear that their DREAM Act is not to find a road to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or even to allow their children, who were born here, to stay in the U.S. and have birthright citizenship. Oh, that’s right. Heller feels that way. Maybe the problem isn’t Heller’s friends. Maybe the problem is Heller.