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The price of alienating a key constituency

Barack Obama won 67% of the Latino vote in 2008, and though it appeared Republicans had an opportunity to help bring down that number considerably this year, most observers in both parties agree that this is not going to happen.

Glenn Thrush reports this week that Mitt Romney's campaign has alienated Latino voters to such an extent, he's not going to get them back.

"In 2008, John McCain paid the price with Latinos for what other Republicans … had said and done," said Ana Navarro, a Republican Party operative who worked for McCain in 2008 and is a longtime friend who advises Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who remains popular with that state's large Latino population. "Romney could very well pay an even higher price with Latinos, but it will be for things he's said and done. The tragic part about it is that he's done it to win over the very conservatives, and they still [aren't supporting him]." One top GOP operative said that number needs to be closer to 33 percent: "We lose Hispanics this bad, we lose the whole election. Period."

The headline read, "How Mitt Romney lost Latinos," but it's worth emphasizing that the Republican frontrunner didn't "lose" them; he pushed them away, practically on purpose.

Romney is an opponent of the DREAM Act; he's palling around with Pete Wilson and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; he endorses a "self-deportation" agenda; he's critical of bilingualism; and his casual dismissals of "amnesty" and "illegals" are a staple of his campaign rhetoric.

The effects of this may very prove to be more sweeping than just one election cycle. For much of the Bush era, Republicans made persistent efforts to strengthen their relationship with the nation's fastest-growing constituency. In the Obama era, the GOP has moved quickly in the opposite direction, and the result is likely to linger for many cycles to come, up and down the ballot.

To reiterate a point from last week, the latest national Fox News Latino poll found Latino voters moving quickly away from Republicans. I put together a chart, featured above, to help drive the point home. On the left, those columns show Obama's edge over the GOP nominee in 2008, when exit polls showed McCain losing this constituency by 36 points. On the right, those columns show Obama's advantage over Romney based on the Fox News poll.