Romney’s Unforced Error

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, suggested Mitt Romney is “getting really bad campaign advice.” I’d say so, too.

Vargas was reacting to the news that Mitt had named former California Gov. Pete Wilson “honorary chairman” of his campaign in the Golden State, and said all sorts of nice things about him.

Wilson last made political news for his prominent role (he was campaign chairman) in the disastrous, wildly expensive 2010 gubernatorial bid of Meg Whitman. Indeed, eMeg’s association with Wilson was widely understood to have doomed her with Latino voters. It is no exaggeration to say that the former governor, who identified the California GOP with anti-immigrant resentments back in the 1990s, is The Boogeyman to Latinos in the state.

So why would Mitt Romney go out of his way to snuggle up to Wilson? Beats me, unless it’s all about fundraising. It’s true that Romney isn’t going to carry California in a general election anyway, and it’s also true that Wilson’s notoriety is largely limited to that state. But in a year when the Latino vote nationally could well be the ballgame, it’s just bizarre that a candidate who already has problems with this segment of the electorate would make this gratuitous gesture of contempt. It’s not as though Wilson is some conservative celebrity who will help him nail down the nomination, either; hard-core California conservatives consider him a squish on issues other than immigration.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if Mitt is really the remorselessly efficient robo-pol he’s cracked up to be. Embracing Wilson is the kind of thing a novice candidate desperate for any kind of support might do. For Mitt Romney, it’s simply an unforced error.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.