Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leslie Sanchez: Republicans, Don't Patronize Hispanics

Leslie Sanchez former director of the White House Initiative on Hispanic Education from 2001 to 2003 and author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other." has some tough talk for the Republican Party, and here's the short version: "

As the members of the Republican National Committee prepare to choose a party chairman to serve for the next two years, the calls for new "Hispanic outreach" initiatives are flying -- in my view, unnecessarily. It is probably true that President Obama's election marks the beginning of a post-partisan, post-racial America, or at least a time when these issues are less divisive than in years past.

But will the two political parties be as able to look beyond the stereotypes of Latinos and what the Latino experience is in this country, as they have for other ethnic and racial groups?

As Republicans, we need to win at least 35 percent of the Hispanic vote to win the presidency. In 2008, John McCain got 31 percent, slightly exceeding the average for the past eight presidential elections. We've had our high points (George W. Bush 2004, 44 percent) and low points (Bob Dole 1996, 21 percent).

Ten years ago, as an RNC press aide, I was given the responsibility for developing a team that would design a multimillion-dollar ad strategy to appeal to the nation's emerging Latino electorate.

We conducted seminal research on Hispanic voting patterns that is still of value today. For example, we identified a "GOP Upside" of another 25 percent of Hispanics who were voting Democrat on the generic presidential ballot question but would be interested in voting for a Republican who offered a campaign agenda focused on family, education and job-creation issues.

So it is mystifying to me to hear the ongoing references to the party's need to find "a new way" to speak to the nation's largest minority bloc. It's like being asked to reinvent the wheel.

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