The Republican primaries are now over, and Mitt Romney has sealed the nomination, if not necessarily the hearts of the party faithful. Nonetheless, his chances of unseating President Obama are not all that bad.
Having long wrapped up enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney's victory in the final primary in Utah on Tuesday was a mere formality. But the fact that Romney will be contesting the presidency for his party this fall does not mean he's necessarily won over all Republican voters.
While the former Massachusetts governor has convinced the party establishment, many grassroots conservatives remain sceptical, saying that Romney is neither right-wing nor inspirational enough. Others worry that he may be too conservative.
For that reason, Romney continues to tour through the US, preaching to the not-yet-converted.
"Today I'm asking you to join me because while we may not agree about everything, we share the same goals, the same vision, and the same belief in American greatness that draws so many people to our shores," Romney said at a campaign appearance last week in Florida.
Romney was speaking at an annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, NALEO. Romney's speech was greeted with polite, but hardly frenetic applause. Many in attendance will have remembered Romney's overtures to conservatives during the Republican primaries, which included the suggestion that illegal immigrants should be encouraged to "deport themselves."
Probably wisely, Romney did not put forward that idea at the NALEO conference.
Latinos are becoming a bigger and bigger constituency
Romney has accused President Barack Obama of breaking a promise by failing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package during his first term in office.
But Romney has remained vague on own plans vis-à-vis immigration. The Republican said he will improve visa conditions for foreigners who work legally in the US and grant permanent residency to anyone who has served in the US military, but broader visions have yet to materialize.
That's not surprising to experts.
"It was a speech with not many specifics but just general rhetoric about how he is concerned about these issues," Brian Darling from the conservative Heritage Foundation told DW.
Political scientist Thomas Mann from the Brookings Institute sees Romney in a "terrible position" on immigration, having alienated many within the growing Latino electorate with conservative statements in the primaries.
A complete turnabout would undermine Romney's credibility and anger conservatives. Meanwhile, Obama has scored points with Latinos for a recent decision to stop deporting some children of illegal immigrants.
Economy still the main issue
The US economy still hasn't recovered form the financial crisis
Nonetheless neither Thomas Mann nor Brian Darling think that immigration issues will turn this election.
"I think it's going to be eclipsed by people's feelings on the economy. That's going to be the number one motivating factor that's going to drive people to the polls," Darling said. "People have friends who are unemployed, they know people on hard times who are underemployed, maybe have a job that doesn't pay that much and that just becomes an overwhelming theme for the election."
Mann agrees, describing the converse situation.
"If Europe were in good shape and we had a more stable economic recovery, Obama would be easily re-elected," Mann told DW.
One rule of thumb is that to win an election, you have to get your voters to turn out, and Romney is not nearly as charismatic as Obama. Still Darling sees the election as a toss-up and says the Republicans' big advantage could be Obama himself.
"The bigger motivating factor for Republicans is getting Barack Obama out of office because he's had a very divisive presidency, a very ideological presidency and I think many Republicans are more motivated by dislike of his policies than love of Mitt Romney," Darling said.
The contest between Romney and Obama will only get going in earnest in late August, when Republicans hold their national convention to formally nominate Romney. Romney is not expected to choose his running mate, always a litmus test of a candidate's judgement, until shortly before that event.
Another truism in politics is that anything is possible.
"There's a long way to go, the next few months are very unpredictable. We don't know what's going to happen on foreign policy, we don't know what's going to happen in domestic policy," Darling said.
Right now, most polls suggest Romney and Obama enjoy roughly equal support. And with the traditional summer lull in domestic politics, that is likely the way the numbers will stay until temperatures cool, and the race for the White House heats up, in the early fall.
Author: Christina Bergmann, Washington DC / jc
Redaktion: Rob Mudge