- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2000

SAN JOSE, Calif. Republicans said Thursday they are changing their decades-old "Southern strategy" in order to attract Hispanics, which they dubbed the "soccer moms" of this year's national elections.
"We have now moved from the Southern strategy we pursued for the last three decades, since Richard Nixon, to a Hispanic strategy for the next three decades," Republican pollster Lance Tarrance said in outlining the findings of a massive national survey of Latinos that he compiled for the Republican National Committee.
The "Southern strategy," first enunciated by Kevin Phillips in his book "The Emerging Republican Majority" in the 1960s, emphasized only conservative whites. The method worked the Republican share of their vote has run steadily at about 57 percent in recent decades.
Under the new strategy to be implemented nationally, Republicans will add an emphasis on conservative-inclined Hispanic voters, Mr. Tarrance said in an interview.
"The maturing of the Hispanic vote is in the very states that have allowed the Republican Party to develop its first majority in the last half century," he said.
About 80 percent of the Hispanic vote is concentrated in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Illinois, he said. Those states account for 179 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson said Mr. Tarrance's survey shows that "Hispanics are to the elections of 2000 what 'soccer moms' were to 1996."
He said his party is going after the growing Hispanic vote with TV ads, Hispanic candidate recruitment attempts, campaigns conducted by Spanish-speaking Republicans in Latino communities and an all-out efforts to persuade newly naturalized citizens of Hispanic origin to join the Republican Party.
But the best hope for Republicans to win a significant share of the largely Democrat-voting Hispanic electorate is the nomination of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a number of party officials made clear at a press conference on Latino voters during the second day of the Republican National Committee's winter meeting.
In every presidential election cycle in recent years, Republicans have claimed they would reach out extensively and effectively to minority voters blacks and Hispanics in particular. But these voters have remained largely wedded to the Democratic Party and its presidential candidates.
"The difference between what is being done this time and many past efforts is a deep commitment to invest in the Hispanic community by doing things like finding good Hispanic candidates to run as Republicans and getting Hispanics on the staffs" of state parties and elected Republican officials, said Republican campaign consultant Eddie Mahe, an RNC adviser.
"Clearly, it would be added value if George W. Bush is our nominee," Mr. Mahe said.
Texas Rep. Henry Bonilla said Mr. Bush's appeal to Hispanic immigrants "is real and unprecedented" for the Republican Party.
Said Mr. Nicholson: "For years, the conventional wisdom has been that Hispanics would be the property of the Democratic machine. This survey confirms that they're more independent and more conservative than anybody thought."
But Hispanics also are more Democratic in allegiance than Republicans would like. More than 70 percent of the Latino vote in California, for example, went to Democrats in 1998.
Mr. Tarrance's poll of 1,029 voting-age Hispanics found that if the presidential election were held today, 30 percent would vote Republican, 60 percent would vote Democratic. Ten percent were undecided.
Among likely voters in that sample, however, 45 percent were self-proclaimed Democrats who would vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, 30 percent said they were Republicans and would vote that way and 25 percent said they were not tied to either political party.
"These are the Hispanic swing voters, and if Republicans win about half of them 42 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally they will achieve Reaganesque wins," Mr. Tarrance said. "This could change the landscape of American politics."
Democrats appear to be taking the Republican move on Hispanics seriously. They dispatched Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the Democratic National Committee co-chairman, to challenge Mr. Nicholson directly on Wednesday at the RNC meeting in the Fairmont Hotel in Silicon Valley.
"We will not allow you to run away from your party record," Mrs. Sanchez said.
In an allusion to Mr. Bush, who addresses Hispanic audiences in English and conversational Spanish, she said, "We will not allow Latinos to be used at props at events or as photo opportunities by your presidential candidates during this election cycle."
Republican National Committee co-chairman Patricia Harrison said Mrs. Sanchez's appearance and a letter she wrote to Mr. Nicholson indicate "real concern on the part of the Democratic Party." Mrs. Harrison said the Democrats are hardly the ones to complain about how Republicans approach Hispanics.
She noted that Donna Brazile, Vice President Al Gore's campaign manager, "announced four pillars of the Democratic Party and conspicuously missing as one of those pillars was Hispanics a strong indication Democrats think they can take the Hispanic vote for granted."
Conspicuously missing on the Republican side at the Hispanic-issues press conference Thursday was the California Republican Party chairman. But California Assemblyman Rod Pacheo spoke up for state Republicans, saying the image of Hispanics being at war with Republicans in his state is wrong.
"Hispanic voters have always been swing voters in California," he said. "We voted for [Los Angeles Mayor Richard] Riordan in Los Angeles County 50 percent of the Hispanic vote. We voted for Reagan. We even voted for [former California Gov.] Pete Wilson when he first ran in 1990."
Mr. Bush leads Mr. Gore in national polls of Hispanics. In California, however, where a series of ballot initiatives on immigration and English in schools are thought to have alienated many Latinos, even Mr. Bush trails Mr. Gore by 14 percentage points, according to an extensive private poll last month by a national interest group.
Mr. Nicholson Thursday played for reporters a videotape of the first of a series of 60-second TV ads the RNC is running. It features a Hispanic man identified as Joe Guerra and his family. "Every year, all four generations of my family get together to celebrate the Fourth of July," the man says into the camera. "We enjoy each other's company. But most importantly, we gather around the flag and we talk about why it is great to be an American. The freedoms, the opportunities and the responsibilities."
"You know, even my 95-year-old father today is a Republican," Mr. Guerra says in English in one version of the ad and in Spanish in an otherwise identical version.
"He passed his values along to me and I passed them along to my children and grandchildren. When people ask me why I am a Republican, I tell them it is because my family's values are the values of the Republican Party."
Mr. Nicholson would not say where this ad would run. He did say, however, that Latino voters "are up for grabs if Republicans are willing to include Latinos, embrace Latinos, compete for Latinos and fight for Latinos. I'm here to tell you that we are willing and we will fight for them more aggressively than ever."

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