Just as Mitt Romney's campaign ramped up outreach to Latino voters at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, his "off the cuff comments" that it "would be helpful to be Latino" to win the presidency were met with sarcasm and humor.
"Pobre guey! What Mitt doesn't realize is that if he were Mexican, there's a 94.6% chance that he would've already been deported by his opponent," CNN Contributor Ruben Navarette wrote on his Facebook page.
"It's a terrible joke," said Matt Barreto, author of "Ethnic Cues: The role of shared ethnicity in Latino political participation." "There is no evidence that Latino candidates have an easier time getting elected. As someone that studies this professionally, this is not true. Minority candidates have a much harder time of winning elections."
In a secretly recorded video obtained by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, the presidential candidate spoke to donors at a private fund-raiser last May on a variety of topics.
One comment generating response: that had his father been "born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this," Romney joked. "I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."
"Pulling an Elizabeth Warren," an attendee responded in the video, citing Elizabeth Warren's controversial claiming of Native American heritage.
"As a community organization, we know that there is tremendous power in the Latino vote," said Eric Rodriguez, vice president at the National Council of La Raza. "Between 2010 and 2011, there were 300,000 Latinos in the U.S. lifted from poverty largely from working. If that is truly what candidate Romney believes, the evidence shows that he is off base."
Critics say the comments, which Romney defended in a press conference and interview, are symbolic of the campaign's disconnect with Latino registered voters, who favor President Obama 68%-26%.
It's a point Romney concedes in the video. "We are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting block has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation," Romney said.
The Romney campaign has released Spanish-language ads highlighting the Romney's ties to Mexico, and as recently as Monday, Romney cited that history in his remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Interest in the presidential candidate's history even prompted a parody Twitter account, @MexicanMitt, who types in all-caps messages like "I AM THE JUAN PERCENT."
Another said: "IF ONLY GRINGO MITT WAS MEXICAN, HE WOULD JOIN THE LONG LINE OF U.S. PRESIDENTS OF MEXICAN DESCENT."
In January, when Univision anchor Jorge Ramos asked if Romney could be considered the first Hispanic president, Romney clarified, "I don't think people would think I was being honest with them if I said I was Mexican-American."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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