By Francis Wilkinson
The most important political numbers of the week may not have been in Friday's employment report, which brought pretty good news for the Obama camp -- 227,000 jobs added in February along with a robust revision upward for the previous month's tally. Still, Election Day is eight months away, and millions of Americans are out of work. There's no telling if the economy will add enough jobs this year for the president to declare, at long last, that it's "morning in America."
A different set of numbers, released earlier in the week, might ultimately prove even more decisive. In a Republican campaign that's seen a few troughs, this week's Fox News/Latin Insights poll of 1,200 likely Latino voters may qualify as a full-scale depression.
How bad was the poll for Republicans?
In a head-to-to head match-up between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama is beating Romney 70 percent to 14. percent. If you combine all of Romney's vote with all of the undecided vote, Romney still falls short of John McCain's 2008 share of the Hispanic vote, a total almost universally regarded as inadequate for a Republican to win the White House.
But surely the Republican can recover, can't he?
Perhaps. But at the very least the task seems to require a few months of groveling abjectly, and in Spanish. At the moment, Hispanic voters are not giving Republicans the political time of day. Asked which party does a better job respecting "traditional values," Hispanic voters said ... the Democrats. That's right, Democrats. It wasn't even close; the margin was 55 percent to 16 percent. (Just to rub it in, a slim majority of poll respondents described themselves as conservatives.)
A refusal to credit Republicans with respecting traditional values is akin to refusing to credit Democrats with respecting skinny guys named "Barack." It suggests a Hispanic electorate that may be downright hostile -- certainly one that's currently in no mood to forgive and forget the hostile Republican tone of the winter. If the jobs front continues to improve even modestly, Republicans will need to make massive inroads with Hispanic voters. It won't be easy, but here's a tip: 34 percent said a Latino vice presidential nominee would make them more likely to vote Republican.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)
-0- Mar/09/2012 21:58 GMT