Last week’s Republican National Committee meeting here in Memphis got a lot of national and local attention. But there was a lot more hard work going on than just listening to speeches.
I was invited to sit in on a meeting with the RNC National Director for Hispanic Engagement. Her name is Jennifer Korn and she met with about 15 of us for lunch at the Peabody’s Capriccio Grill Friday. Our Shelby GOP chairman, Justin Joy, attended as did our state House representative Mark White; Tennessee GOP coordinator Victor Evans; Mary Wagner, president of the Young Republicans; a representative of the College Republicans; Sharon Ohsfeldt who heads up Shelby GOP’s Hispanic outreach; two people from Hispanic groups in Memphis; County Commission candidate Geoff Diaz and others. We enjoyed Ms. Korn’s presentation and were able to ask her questions as well.
“The RNC is starting from the ground up,” she told us. “I worked with President Bush’s reelection campaign and we got 44% of the Hispanic vote. We got 32% with McCain and 26.5% with Romney. We’re faltering.”
Ms. Korn worked with Governor Jeb Bush in his Hispanic networking and caught the eye of the RNC. She met with Chairman Reince Priebus to give him some ideas on what we should be doing to get more of the Hispanic vote. “We weren’t doing anything as it turned out. There had been no outreach or attempt at building relationships. We can’t expect to get their vote this way.”
Priebus put her in charge of Hispanic outreach and in the past sixteenth months, “We have participated in 71,000 events. We have recruited more than 700 volunteers to walk door to door and we’ve been engaged in targeted races. We want to keep our staff for 2016,” Korn said.
“I have a vision to have something permanent. That is a donor base, permanent staff and to be able to hire people from a community to work in the community and to train them to become political operatives.”
Sharon Ohsfeldt approved and mentioned that since she began her effort in October, she has gotten positive responses from Hispanics and people in the business community in Memphis.
Korn went on to emphasize that “we are not changing our party platform, but how we deliver the message. One of the main things we need to do is not to offend people. I learned that we don’t have control over senators and representatives and what they say. Dems are very good at sticking to their talking points. Republicans are very independent. It’s the best thing about us, but also can be the worst thing about us.”
She lauded Rep. White’s success in getting passed free in state tuition for children of undocumented workers.
Some other suggestions she has are first “we need good data. Good demographics. We want to get the right people to call people in their community. Participating in naturalization ceremonies is another thing we can do.” Korn related how the Romney campaign took none of their advice. “They didn’t tell Hispanics ‘we care about you and we will fight for your vote.'”
Currently, Korn sees “an opportunity now with the Democrats who are letting them down. Two issues resonate with Hispanics. One is the jobs and the economy. The second is faith and family. We get the most response from them on these.”
Tomorrow: Effective campaign methods