GOP Hispanics Aims to Secure Votes for McCain
By Bart Jansen
The Congressional Quarterly (Washington, DC), September 5, 2008
Hispanic Republicans are adding a little salsa to the political recipe that makes the Rocky Mountain West a battleground this fall.
To whip up enthusiasm for the ticket, an advocacy group called the Republican National Hispanic Assembly organized a series of events in and around the Republican convention in St. Paul this week supporting presidential nominee John McCain . Events in the twin city of Minneapolis were bracketed by a dance party Sunday within the red walls of the Cuban restaurant Babalu and a gathering Thursday at the Marquette Hotel.
'Sen. McCain has been a friend to the Hispanic community not just in an election, but for years,' said Marco Diaz, vice chairman of the assembly and a member of the Utah delegation. 'They really sense they can make a difference this year.'
The West could be pivotal in the presidential contest between McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The combined 19 electoral votes in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada rival Ohios closely contested 20 votes that were decisive in President Bushs 2004 victory. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population of those states has grown explosively, to 20 percent in Colorado by 2004, 21 percent in Nevada and 42 percent in New Mexico, according to a June report from the American Enterprise Institute by John Fortier.
Exit polling in 2004 suggested that Bush, who speaks Spanish and had been governor of Texas, won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, though some analysts and Hispanic activists dispute that the actual vote split was that high. While the sour economy and the Iraq war discourage thoughts of reaching a similar peak this fall, Republican Hispanics contend that one-third of their community is within reach.
'We are the ultimate swing vote,' said Raul 'Danny' Vargas, the groups chairman who runs a public relations firm in Herndon, Va.
While immigration policy festers as national dispute, activists are stressing the importance of national security, lower taxes, school choice and family values such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
'Many of them are independent,' Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez said at the Xcel Energy Center where McCain as nominated. 'Theyre not wedded to the typical rhetoric of the Democratic Party: class warfare and all that kind of stuff. I think hell appeal to them by going after all those issues.'
Outside the groups Thursday meeting, Tibi Ellis of Las Vegas feared that taxes would rise in an administration headed by Democrat Obama. As an ambassador for the grass-roots group Latinas for McCain, she recruited neighbors in meetings at her home and attended conventions at the county, state and federal level.
'I have seen how democracy really plays out,' said Ellis, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from Venezuela. 'I watched the whole political process from my house to St. Paul, and I hope I can send you pictures from the White House.'
Ruben Estrada, a delegate from Monroe, an outer suburb of New York City, said organizing for McCain grew naturally out of his work on behalf of Republicans Rudolph Giuliani for mayor of that city and George Pataki for governor of the state.
'It was law and order,' said Estrada from Puerto Rico. 'Were talking about national security. Were talking about values.'
Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, advocated policies to promote better health care in a speech Wednesday on the convention floor. For example, twice as many Hispanics have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, and AIDS and its pre-cursor virus are five times more prevalent in Hispanic women than whites.
'The deck is stacked against some of us,' Rios said. 'Whether you live in a barrio or on Main Street U.S.A., the best of the American health care system should be available to you.'
Immigration remains a thorny issue. McCain sponsored comprehensive legislation last year with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy that combined a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants with tighter border security.
But the Senate killed the bill after several attempts to send it to the House. McCain caused a bit of a political stir during a January debate in the Republican presidential nomination campaign in which most candidates took a harder line in immigration when he said he wouldnt now vote for that legislation because he believed the electorate insists on stronger border security first.
The issue has roiled the Republican Partys conservative base, prompting platform language the convention adopted that stressed tough border security, swift deportation for illegal immigrants and opposition to what the document calls 'amnesty' for illegal immigrants.
'People dont realize that McCain took a bullet for the Hispanic community,' said Diaz, the groups vice chairman. He quoted former President Ronald Reagan as saying that 'Hispanics are Republicans, they just dont know it yet.'
McCains Stance on Immigration Could Help Win Hispanics
By Stephen Clark
The Fox News, September 4, 2008