For years now, the Republican leadership and party professionals have recognized that they had to do better with Latino voters if they want to be viable in presidential elections. But with immigration a major political issue and their candidates taking mostly xenophobic positions, no wonder none of their candidates will attend the nation’s largest Latino political conference.
If the GOP thinks they’re going to win more Hispanic voters in 2016, they appear to have decided that speaking at large gatherings of Latino leaders isn’t the way to go. None of the 2016 candidates will address the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza — the largest Latino advocacy group — being held next week in Kansas City, Missouri, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Republicans have long contended that winning Hispanics is key to winning the White House, as Latinos are the fastest growing constituency in the country. And President Barack Obama was able to secure his victory thanks to winning the Hispanic vote by a more than 36 point margin in 2008 and 44 point margin in 2012.
A La Raza spokesman told the WSJ that all of the 2016 hopefuls were invited and that none of the Republicans opted to attend. Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley both accepted the invitation to speak at a lunch event with the conference. And Bernie Sanders, who originally had a conflict, will also be in attendance. It seems unlikely all 17 declared and soon-to-be-declared GOP candidates had conflicts for the four-day conference.
In 2012, the Republicans lost the Latino vote by a 44 point margin. After that election, they held a special strategy session and issued a report on how they can do better. The primary message of that report was that the party must embrace comprehensive immigration reform and stop the racist and xenophobic rhetoric that had so often hampered their ability to reach out to Latino voters in the past. But they can’t seem to get their actual candidates and legislators to get on board with that.
We’ve got Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and most of the other Republican candidates going in the exact opposite direction. Of course they aren’t going to show up at the La Raza conference, they’d get booed and it would be a political disaster. The only one who could possibly appear there and not leave humiliated is Jeb Bush (maybe Rand Paul too, depending on which position he feels like taking today on immigration; he’s been all over the map, as has Rubio).