- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Can the Republican Party learn to speak Hispanic? Of course, there is no such language but could there be a tailored message that resonates with the U.S. Hispanic population? Some Republican strategists think so, and GOPAC is launching an initiative to win over the allegiance of this demographic.
Engaging Hispanic Voters is a grass-roots program that gives Hispanic Republican activists, community leaders and politicians funding and training to campaign effectively. The program started in Los Angeles in mid-August, hosted by the California chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, and will continue in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, New York and Virginia. "We are reaching out to the Hispanic Republican community with a check in hand and giving them the tools necessary to win," said Dallas Lawrence, GOPAC's national communications director. The committee is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the initiative.
This is not surprising. High birth rates and immigration from Latin America have made Hispanics the fastest growing segment of the population and electorate in America. And this trend is expected to continue, according to Census Bureau projections. By the year 2028, Hispanics are estimated to make up about 20 percent of the entire U.S. population.
President Bush has long recognized the importance of Hispanic support to the Republican Party, and was able to marshall support from an estimated 38 percent of voting Hispanics. While this represents a dramatic improvement over Bob Dole's showing, Al Gore's share of the Hispanic vote still outpaced Mr. Bush's by 27 percentage points. "For eight to ten years, the Republican Party has completely ignored the Hispanic community," said Mr. Lawrence. "We haven't taken the time to talk to them." In addition, Republicans' once solid lead in the Cuban vote is also becoming more tenuous.
If Republicans hope win solid majorities among Hispanic voters, they will have to make a concerted effort. And although Hispanics are far from a monolithic group ideologically and culturally, there are certain ideas in the Republican agenda that relate to them directly. Republican strategists maintain that the party's emphasis on faith and family values will strike a chord with Hispanics, many of whom are devoutly religious. On a more pragmatic level, Republican-favored tax schemes are potentially attractive to the many Hispanic small business owners, as are pro-growth policies and efforts to improve public school education and expand school choice. Sounds like a pretty appealing message, no matter what language you speak.


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