GOP's Hispanic Outreach Stalls [Analysis]

PHOTO: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the National Press Club March 18, 2013 in Washington, DC.

It’s been almost a year since Mitt Romney lost seven in ten Hispanic voters to President Obama, sparking Republicans to try and improve the party’s poor reputation with Hispanics. Yet, the GOP has little to show that its “re-brand” is working.

On Monday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced that it hired “Hispanic engagement staff” in seven states; California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Chairman Reince Priebus called the hires “unprecedented” moves that “will ensure our message of ‘opportunity for all’ reaches voters.”

The moves are the latest in a string of listening sessions and candidate outreach efforts that Republicans have used to show they’re serious about attracting Hispanics. But Hispanic voters appear as alienated by the GOP as ever.

A report commissioned by the RNC in March recommended that Republicans “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” warning that “if we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to our core constituencies only.” But momentum behind immigration reform in Congress has sputtered out, largely thanks to opposition and inaction on behalf of Republican leaders in the House.

And amid the fight over immigration reform, Hispanics have become increasingly negative toward the GOP. Almost two-thirds of Hispanics say they feel closer to the Democratic Party than they have in the past, while less than three in ten say the same about the Republican Party, according to a recent poll by the non-profit Public Religion Research Institute. Almost half of the opinions Hispanics volunteered about the GOP were negative, while only one in ten were positive.

Majorities of Hispanics side with Democrats on issues like government spending and healthcare, which are ranked as their most important political concerns. But just looking at social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage, immigration plays the largest role in shaping attitudes among Hispanics.

Fifty-four percent of Hispanics said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

It’s smart for Republicans continue to make hires like today’s with the hopes of fashioning the GOP into a home for Latino voters. But unless the party deals with the 800-pound gorilla in the room -- immigration reform -- their efforts are bound to be a waste of time.

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