- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

George W. Bush is winning support from a majority of Hispanic voters, the largest and fastest-growing minority voter bloc in the country and one that helped re-elect President Clinton with 72 percent of its vote.
Hispanic officials and grass-roots activists say the sudden movement to the Republican presidential front-runner, after years of hostility toward the Rerpublican Party, is the result of Mr. Bush’s efforts to reach out to Hispanics with a message of inclusiveness and with tax-cut proposals that appeal to business owners and families with children.
“Bush has taken a completely different approach to Hispanics. His attitude is 100 percent different. He’s not using the wedge issues that Republicans have used in the past. He’s not sending out vibes to Hispanics that I’m picking on you,” said Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest Hispanic organization in the United States.
“Our organization supports Bush’s tax-cut plan. We think it’s pretty good and will help Hispanics,” Mr. Wilkes said.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 2,014 adults across the country found last week that the Texas governor was getting a hefty 52 percent support from Hispanics, compared with 41 percent for Vice President Al Gore. Mr. Bush also leads former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey by 44 percent to 41 percent among Hispanics.
“This is a sea change from 1996, when you had the Republican presidential candidate actively making Hispanics the issue,” said Lisa Navarrete, spokesman for the National Council of La Raza.
“Now you have a candidate who shows that he wants to be more inclusive, and Latinos have responded well to that. I was surprised that the national numbers were as high as they were. But it’s still early, and the question is, will that support hold up?” she said.
If it does, Mr. Bush’s support among Hispanics “would be unprecedented” for a Republican presidential candidate, Ms. Navarrete said.
President Reagan achieved the high watermark for the Republicans in 1984 when he was re-elected with 37 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Hispanic officials say that if Mr. Bush’s numbers remain steady, it would be difficult for the Democrats to win in November because so much of their support depends on voting blocs like Hispanics and blacks.
“I don’t think that the Democrats can win without the Hispanic vote,” Mr. Wilkes said. “They would have a hard time making it up elsewhere in the electorate.”
In Mr. Bush’s first major policy speech on education, he chose to address the Latino Business Association in Los Angeles. More than 440,00 small Hispanic businesses are located throughout Southern California.
At the same time, Mr. Bush who speaks Spanish makes sure he contacts Hispanics wherever he holds an event. “He never goes into a school where you do not see him with Hispanic children,” Ms. Navarette said.
Mindy Tucker, the Bush campaign press secretary, said every speech and proposal is sent out to Spanish language television, radio and newspapers. “There is a significant Latino outreach effort here,” she said.
Mr. Bush, who pulled in more than 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas in his 1998 re-election, has shaped a message of upward mobility and entrepreneurial advancement not unlike Mr. Reagan’s message in the 1980s, his supporters say.
“It is a message of aspiration, of living the American dream,” said Raul Romero, who heads an engineering firm in Houston and is a fund-raiser and Hispanic outreach coordinator for the Bush campaign.
“A lot of Hispanics dream of owning their own business, and he appeals to that in his message and with his tax cuts for small-business people,” Mr. Romero said. “He is not selling quotas or things like that.”
Some public-policy analysts, including the Democratic Leadership Council, view Mr. Gore’s “politics of grievance” as an attempt to use voter alienation as a wedge to build party loyalty.
Many Hispanics were angered when Mr. Gore’s campaign manager, Donna Brazile, recently listed the “four pillars” of the Democratic Party and mentioned blacks, labor, women and “other ethnic minorities.”
“She mentioned every group except Hispanics, and I think Hispanics are tired of being taken for granted by the Democrats,” said Robert Deposada, executive director of the Hispanic Business Roundtable.
But Jenny Backus, chief spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, rejects such complaints.
Once Hispanics learn about Mr. Bush’s record in Texas toward Hispanics and his policies for the country, she said, “those numbers [in the poll] will be to the benefit of the Democrats.”

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