GOP Presidential Candidates Snub Major Hispanic Conference for Third Election in a Row
All eyes in the conservative political world were focused this week on the Faith and Freedom Forum in Washington, DC. There, Politico reported, the entire field of 2016 Republican White House hopefuls auditioned before the evangelical faithful to "depict a Christian world under siege" and "road-test their religious messages."
But Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and company should have 2,400 miles away in Las Vegas for the 32nd annual convention of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Instead, for the third straight presidential election season, the GOP's best and brightest snubbed a major Hispanic event due to supposed "scheduling conflicts."
After Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama among Hispanic voters by 71 to 27 percent in 2012, you'd think the 2016 GOP would have made Latino outreach job #1. But as the Washington Post reported, you'd be wrong:
In an autopsy of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential election loss, the Republican Party concluded it was "imperative" for GOP candidates to step up their engagement with Latinos in order to win back the White House.
Otherwise, the report said, "they will close their ears to our policies."
An obvious place to start would be the nation's annual "Latino political convention" here this week in Las Vegas, where more than 1,200 Hispanic leaders have gathered for, among other things, a presidential candidates forum.
Yet out of the GOP's 16 declared or likely presidential candidates, only one -- retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson -- showed.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it should.
In September 2007, the GOP presidential contestants turned their backs on the Univision Hispanic Presidential Forum:
When Univision-the Spanish-language network with the top-rated local newscast in 16 media markets-scheduled an historic GOP debate on Latino issues for Sept. 16 in Miami, a week after a similar forum for Democrats, only Arizona Sen. John McCain accepted.
What's worse, in the eyes of national Hispanic leaders and progressives who are keeping count, this is the third time in recent months that Republican presidential candidates have dissed the fastest-growing part of the electorate by passing up chances to address Latinos' concerns about the Iraq war, health care, the economy and immigration.
And as I described in December 2010, the GOP's would-be presidents "self-deported" before another forum created specifically for them to reach out to Hispanic voters:
In January, the new Hispanic Leadership Network is hosting a forum to showcase the 2012 Republican presidential field. But while the event is well funded by the conservative American Action Network, it is lacking for one thing: the GOP White House hopefuls themselves.
As it turned out, only the ill-fated former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty agreed to show up.
Four years later, only Dr. Ben Carson made the same journey to NALEO as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But while the Democrats each emphasized their support for comprehensive immigration reform, Carson had a different message:
"We do have an illegal immigration problem that would be solved if you seal the borders and you cease benefits so people wouldn't have a reason to come."
One official with the nonpartisan NALEO group had this simple message for both Democrats and Republicans. "The path to the White House runs through our community." Apparently, the GOP didn't read the memo.