For two days Republicans packed the swanky Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida listening to speeches and videos from elected officials, presidential hopefuls, pundits, politicos and leaders of the GOP all discussing one topic – how the GOP can do a better job connecting with Latino voters.
During a panel on immigration, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said “If we become perceived as an anti-immigrant party, America, being a country of immigrants, will never allow us to be the majority party.”
The National Journal’s Beth Reinhard, a veteran of Florida politics and who has covered the Hispanic electorate, wrote about the event in “Immigration Policy Bedevils GOP with Hispanics.” A major theme throughout the conference was the need for the GOP to pay attention to tone.
“If you send the signals of ‘them v. us’ you’re not going to be able to get the desired result,” said Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, unsuccessfully pursued immigration reform. “Leaders have to lead and that means they have the responsibility of civility as well as having a tone that draws people toward our cause and not against it.”
“We do have a challenge on the Hispanic vote,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political consultant who worked on the Bush campaigns. “It is a language problem. It is a tonal problem.’’ …
During the 2010 election, Hispanics favored Democrats by a 3 to 2 margin, which was an improvement from previous election cycles. Clearly the GOP has a long road ahead in their attempt to capture the Latino electorate. National Journal interviewed me for the piece, discussing the positive steps the GOP is making with Latinos and recognizing the steps the GOP has made in reshaping its connection with Hispanic voters.
“This is not happening in September of 2012. It’s happening now,’’ said Bettina Inclan, former executive director of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. “You have to communicate with Hispanics, not preach to them. You don’t have to cater to Hispanics, but you do have to tailor your message.’’
The conference was sponsored by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman’s American Action Network and co-chaired by Bush and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who intended to get the ball rolling early enough to impact the 2012 election cycle. The conference included panel discussions on free trade, border security, immigration, messaging and education reform.
Looking forward to see what is next for the Hispanic Leadership Network…