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It’s no secret that Republicans needed to revamp their outreach to Hispanics after Mitt Romney’s dismal electoral showing last year, and GOP leaders hope a new marketing effort will help their members connect with the burgeoning bloc of voters.
While the party’s leaders prepare the ground for passage of a major immigration policy overhaul this summer — something top Republican strategists generally see as an imperative — they are also starting to engage the Hispanic community more directly on other issues they hope will be fertile ground and can convince voters to give the GOP another look.
Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is spearheading the effort, launching a Spanish-language social-media initiative and hiring an outreach coordinator to help members communicate effectively with the Hispanic community.
“One of her major goals coming in was to change the way that House Republicans message to all demographics, in this case, Hispanic[s],” conference spokeswoman Riva Litman said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who is of Cuban heritage, called the effort “a comprehensive strategy” in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
It starts with a grass-roots approach that encourages members to talk to Hispanic voters, asking them to make television and radio appearances on Univision and Telemundo, and penning op-eds that can be translated into Spanish.
And last week, the “Conferencia GOP” released a video in which Spanish-language members — Ros-Lehtinen included — spoke about Republican energy initiatives and how they would help Latino communities and boost jobs.
The strength and resonance of this strategy could be tested this summer, as House Republicans set out to sell their vision for an immigration rewrite to Latino voters.
“The question I get is, ‘I have a very conservative message, will this resonate with the Hispanic community?’” said Wadi Gaitan, who was hired earlier this year to serve as the conference’s deputy press secretary for Hispanic media. “We always want to make sure it’s not about becoming moderates, it’s about modernizing what we do.”
In addition to producing YouTube videos and maintaining a Spanish-language Twitter feed, Gaitan helps members tap into Latino media markets, provides training and equips them with “best practices” for reaching out to Latino voters.
Gaitan is also responsible for helping Republicans understand that reaching out to Hispanic voters doesn’t mean they have to change their political positions, but rather it is just a question of how to frame their positions in different ways.