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RNC's Program Aimed At Luring More Latino Voters


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

As they leave the convention in Tampa, Republican Party leaders are hoping their efforts in Florida will win over more Latino voters. Hispanic lawmakers were given high-profile speaking roles, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced Mitt Romney last night. Recent polls suggests President Obama leads Romney 3 to 1 among Hispanics.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Tampa on this week's Republican efforts at outreach.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The Republican National Committee aired a tribute to Hispanics during the last night of the Republican convention.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's not a coincidence that Hispanic Americans that have reached historic milestones are also Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: From the first Hispanic member of Congress to the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1: To our first Latina governor.

CORLEY: In all, eight elected Hispanic leaders are featured in the video, including New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Their message - the values of the Republican Party are in line with those of the Latino community, so Mitt Romney is the candidate Hispanics should support.


CORLEY: Earlier in the week at a luncheon meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network, there was Latin music, empanada appetizers and a poster on the podium with the words: red and white (foreign language spoken) emblazoned across an elephant. Among the speakers, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New Mexico's Martinez.

GOVERNOR SUSANA MARTINEZ: The problem is, as Republicans, we have to make sure that we don't just visit Hispanics during election time, that we make them a part of the process.

CORLEY: Hispanics are typically much more loyal to the Democratic Party. Nevada's Sandoval says that's why it's part of his mission to help fill the political pipeline as he makes appointments to judgeships to commissions.

GOVERNOR BRIAN SANDOVAL: I searched far and wide within the Hispanic community to find that next generation of leaders.

CORLEY: The number of elected Hispanic Republicans has grown. In 2010, the Latinos who won congressional and governor's races were all Republican. Still, David Cardenas, a board member of SUNPAC, a Florida Hispanic outreach group, has this warning.

DAVID CARDENAS, BOARD MEMBER, SUNPAC: There's the demographic shift taking place in America. And unless they start making inroads with the Hispanic community, it's going to be a regional party. And that's just not acceptable.

CORLEY: A big obstacle though is the official Republican stance on immigration as reflected on the party platform. During the primaries, nominee Mitt Romney took an aggressive position against illegal immigration to satisfy the GOP base.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #4: When I say immigrant, you say power. Immigrant.




CORLEY: A vocal group of protesters rallied at a Tampa park during the convention, Carlos Montes with the Southern California Immigration Coalition says there's a clear reason why many Latinos just aren't interested in the Republican Party.

CARLOS MONTES: The Republican leadership is introducing anti-immigrant laws. And Romney's solution is the auto-deportation. He didn't even support the DREAM Act. You know, at least Obama did support the DREAM Act.

CORLEY: President Obama's executive order halting deportation of some undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. at an early age boosted his support among Latinos and preempted Senator Marco Rubio's plan to offer a GOP alternative to the DREAM Act. Former Governor Jeb Bush is a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican-America. He's been calling for the party to sound less hostile when it discusses immigration. Still, he says while immigration may be a gateway, the economy is more important.

JEB BUSH: When you can't get a job and you're uncertain about the future, it changes who you are, it changes your life. And I think the Republican platform, and more importantly, Mitt Romney, offers a lot of hope in that regard to create a climate of sustained economic growth. That's the number one issue.

CORLEY: That's a message that the Romney campaign is likely to stress, especially in battleground states like Florida. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.