Why are Latino voters shifting their allegiances toward Meg Whitman? A new Field poll out today shows a tie race between the Republican and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown. Whitman has gained traction among Latino voters -- Brown leads by only 11 points with that demographic -- to a degree that has taken many Democratic analysts by surprise. They comfort themselves with assumptions: that once Latinos find out that Whitman's campaign is chaired by Pete Wilson, the Republican governor whose name is synonymous with the anti-immigration Proposition 187, they'll reject her and go back to Brown. Or, once they figure out that Whitman supports the GOP party line on immigration, they'll associate her with nativism and racism and go back to Brown. Or maybe it's a statistical blip.
It's probably not a blip, and so it is an inversion of conventional wisdom. It may simply be a consequence of very effective and narrow targeting of Whitman's anti-immigration primary media. It may be that the $91 million she's spent so far has lifted her standing with everyone. It may well be that associating with Wilson used to be an unforgivable sin, but it no longer is. Whitman's campaign has done field outreach to Latino leaders, acknowledging their differences on immigration. With a few exceptions, her tone has been conciliatory. Her gender helps. It's generally easier for a woman to talk about immigration without seeming scary than a man ... something that political consultants exploit.