Jennifer Korn, RNC National Director for Hispanic Engagement, believes our party cannot cede any community to the Democrats. She’s concerned that we’re not talking to whole groups of people. Korn told a meeting of Shelby County Republicans that message during the RNC spring meeting held here last week.
She explained, relating her experience working for the Bush reelection campaign in 2004. “I was helping in New Mexico. We didn’t avoid the liberal areas. We went to them. It was Karl Rove’s strategy. He would ask how much can we squeeze out of each precinct? Even if it is five more votes out of that precinct, it’s worth the painstaking work. We ended up winning by 6,000 votes – it was really 20,000 but Democrat Governor Bill Richardson worked it down to 6 – and that was the last time we won that state.
“Sometimes we Republicans are seen as afraid to talk to other people, but we must engage.” Korn cited the recent election of a Republican as mayor in San Diego. “The RNC worked heavily there,” she said. “We won with 53% of the vote and 33% of the Hispanic vote. We went to community events of 50 people or more and it worked.”
Korn related how it helps to get people from the community to go to others there and speak to them about our candidates. For instance, in one of the poorer areas, the RNC found a burly guy with a big tattoo on his neck. He went and spoke to others in his neighborhood. Because he had “street cred” they listened to him.
At that point, Shelby GOP chair Justin Joy offered some thoughts. He said that for the “first time I see work being done from the top down by the RNC to make and sustain an outreach effort. It might not effect this election, “but we are laying the difficult foundational work that will help the next and future ones.”
Ms. Korn agreed and said the Democrats have been doing that for decades. “They are even working to turn Texas blue. If you think it can’t happen, look at Virginia and North Carolina, which have been going blue.”
That brought her to another point. “You can’t win with subtraction,” she said. “We have to go out for other groups.”
How to do that’ always comes back to the immigration debate. She wrote a paper called “Do’s and Don’t’s of Immigration Reform. First, don’t treat all Hispanics as undocumented workers. Second, don’t treat all undocumented workers as Hispanic.”
So how do we engage Hispanics and what is the Republican platform on immigration? “We have to recognize that it’s broken and we need to fix it. The RNC is not a policy making group – that belongs to Congress. We must talk of the ways to fix it.
“Part of the problem is the media, which always goes to the issue of ‘pathway to citizenship’ first. Not all who are here want to be citizens. There are other issues, too.”
Some of the fault lies with President Obama. “He’s so partisan, he does not allow for a dialog on reform. If he wants it and he really cared about Hispanics, why doesn’t he give us a secure border?
“Most of the time (on immigration reform), Republicans are halfway there.” Korn described a bipartisan bill brought up by a certain Democrat Congressman. It was a good bill, she says, but he took it to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and she threatened to dry up his funding if he went ahead with it. Democrats need this issue to use against Republicans.
“Hispanics don’t just care about immigration,” Ms. Korn believes. “They do care about school vouchers, school choice, jobs and the economy.”
It will take a while to convey our message, but the RNC will continue to work with Hispanic and other groups and get their vote.