* Tough talk wows Republican base, alienates Hispanics
* Obama won 67 pct of Latino votes, and the White House
By Patricia Zengerle
LAS VEGAS, Oct 18 Republican presidential
hopefuls ratcheted up their tough talk against illegal
immigration in a debate on Tuesday in Nevada, a state where
they might need Latino voters to win the White House.
Fierce opposition to illegal immigration and tough border
control is one of the party's hot-button policy issues. But
some of the talk on the issue -- and the focus on sealing the
border with Mexico -- does not go down well with Latino
Whoever becomes the nominee to oppose President Barack
Obama's re-election bid next year will need support from
Latinos -- the largest and fastest growing U.S. minority group
-- to win the White House.
In 2008, Obama defeated Republican John McCain by more than
a 2-1 margin among Hispanics -- 67 percent to 31 percent, and
became president. To win in 2012, his opponent likely would
need to increase the Republican share to 40 percent, matching
the more immigration-friendly George W. Bush when he was
re-elected in 2004.
The Republican hopefuls kept up their hard talk on illegal
immigration in Tuesday's debate in Nevada, one of the swing
states where the 2012 election will likely be decided, and
where 27 percent of the population is Hispanic.
Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would use predator drones
along the Mexican border, and advocated sending additional
troops to patrol the frontier.
Perry also blasted former Massachusetts Governor Mitt
Romney for using a lawncare company that hired illegal
immigrants, and Romney lashed back at Perry because he had not
supported building a fence all along Texas's 1,300-mile
(2,000-km) border with Mexico.
Businessman Herman Cain, who has emerged as a frontrunner
in the nomination race, was asked about his comment that the
United States should build an electrified fence along the
Mexican frontier, with barbed wire on top.
Cain said during the weekend he was sorry if his remarks
had offended anyone, but said he was not walking away from the
idea. "I don't apologize at all for wanting to protect the
American citizens and to protect our agents on the border. No,"
Cain said on Tuesday.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said she would fence the
entire Mexican border and lashed out against foreign women who
come to the United States and give birth to children as
"anchors" on which they base their claim to stay.
"I will build the fence. I will enforce English as the
official language of the U.S. government," Bachmann said.
Romney eventually interrupted the fierce discussion to take
a cooler tone.
"I think it's important for us as Republicans on this stage
to say something which hasn't been said. And that is I think
every single person here loves legal immigration. We respect
people who come here legally," he said.
But damage may have been done.
Robert Zavala, a Las Vegas resident who is a registered
Republican, reminded the panel that not every Latino is in the
country illegally. "What is the message from you guys to our
Latino community?" he asked.
Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile said the
issue will haunt the Republicans. "If one of these candidates
wants to become president of the United States, they will have
to reach out to Latino voters," she said on CNN.