The Republicans Flunk Spanish

Jay Newton-Small, Yahoo News, September 12, 2007

To many casual political observers, it may have seemed remarkable that seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates showed up in Miami on Sunday for the nation’s first Spanish-language debate. But the more extraordinary thing is that only one G.O.P. candidate is apparently willing to take part in a Republican follow-up.

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Univision invited all of the G.O.P. candidates to the same forum next week. But only one, Senator John McCain of Arizona, accepted the invitation and the debate has been indefinitely postponed.

That kind of snub wouldn’t have seemed possible only three years ago. President George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, in part, due to historic Latino support for a Republican candidate. Fulfilling the dream of Karl Rove, his former top political adviser, Bush drew nearly 40% of the Latino vote, double that of any previous G.O.P. presidential nominee.

So why are 10 G.O.P. candidates so unwilling to face Hispanic voters this year? In one word: immigration. Most Republican platforms on the divisive issue—which are variations of beefing up border controls—serve to shore up their base, but anger most immigrant communities, not just Hispanics.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign said he had a scheduling conflict with the proposed Republican Univision debate, but his campaign is in “regular contact with Univision about other opportunities in the future,” said Alex Burgos, who handles Hispanic outreach for Romney. Burgos was quick to note that Romney was the first candidate from either party to run Spanish-language ads, is the only G.O.P. candidate with an Hispanic steering committee and has an extensive Spanish-language website.

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