ABC News fails to challenge GOP Chair Ryan Call on his Claim of Making Inroads with Hispanic Voters

by Michael Lund

Ryan Call appeared on an ABC interview Wednesday from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, commenting on Colorado’s status as a swing state in this November’s general election, and highlighting Hispanic, women, and young voters’ key role in deciding who gets the nine electoral votes at stake.

Call acknowledges that candidate Mitt Romney needs to do “appreciably better among Latinos” than McCain in 2008 in order to win Colorado. He said:

“We are making significant strides within those members of our community. The issues of entrepreneurship, about creating opportunities for education, and especially as it relates to the current status of the economy and jobs, that’s the contrast that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan bring to the table versus the failed record of Barak Obama.”

The question that immediately springs to mind is, “Is the GOP making ‘significant strides’ among Hispanic voters?”

And if, as I suspected, he might be wrong, why didn’t the journalists interviewing call him on the inaccuracy?

My analysis of polling among Hispanics suggests that Call might be a little overly optimistic. While McCain garnered 31 percent of the Latino vote in 2008 (Obama came in with 67 percent), a Gallup poll from June 24, 2012 shows Romney with only 25 percent of the registered Hispanic vote (Obama with 66 percent) – a drop of 6 points from four years ago. That’s a drop of 6 percent, hardly “significant strides”. In an even more recent survey from NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo (August 22, 2012), 65 percent of Latino voters plan to back Obama compared to 25 percent for Romney. That’s not good news for Call or Romney, no matter how you try and spin it.

If ABC News didn’t know that polling data contradicted Ryan Call’s contention, they could have asked him to substantiate his claim.

If they had, Call would have had a hard time reconciling his efforts to attract Hispanics with the polling data available to him and everyone else with access to Google.

Back in April of this year, in an article from The Denver Post, Call acknowledged the uphill battle, saying, “We will work to do much better.” He qualified this by saying that, typically, the GOP party ‘s real efforts to recruit Hispanic voters come later in the election cycle.

So now, with 65 days left until the election, I’m wondering about a couple of things. First, how “late in the cycle” is too late in the cycle for the GOP’s Latino surge to materialize and show substantive results in the measure everyone’s watching, namely, the polls.

Second, where has the GOP gone wrong? What does the polling data suggest about each party’s successes and failures in securing Hispanic support and votes, especially here in Colorado?

Maybe I can shed a little light for ABC News journalists covering the RNC convention and reporters everywhere.

In the past six months, Colorado’s GOP chairman Ryan Call has appeared on Spanish-language radio, Solomon Martinez and Pauline Olvera from Colorado Hispanic Republicans have made their pitches on the talk radio circuit, and celebrity Hispanic politicians from both sides have been paraded and promoted in front of cheering partisans at public events, most notably and recently at the GOP convention. The GOP has deployed Latino outreach directors in many states and implemented social media strategies.

In those efforts, the generalized GOP message has been coordinated and consistent: Hispanic voters are actually Republicans who are not yet enlightened enough to know it (see Susana Martinez’s speech to the GOP convention), jobs and the economy are the basket in which to place all your eggs, and that the Republican platform promoting values such as faith, family, freedom and free market is all that is needed to convert traditionally Democratic Hispanics and recruit them to the big tent of the GOP.

Call, in his ABC interview from the convention, offered only a slightly enhanced version of that message, by acknowledging “opportunities for education” as part of the GOP pitch to Hispanic voters.

Hispanic voters have consistently rated jobs and the economy as the most important issue affecting their decision as voters in this election, over other issues such as education and immigration.

But the spiel on the campaign trail doesn’t get much more nuanced than calls for unchaining the private sector and reducing the regulatory burden. Apparently, that generalized message hasn’t paid off.

In addition to the overriding jobs issue, education is clearly an issue Hispanics care about, but the Republicans haven’t been able to capitalize. Besides being co-opted on many K-12 policy innovations involving accountability, choice, and charters, the Colorado GOP has acquired an obstructionist image in their handling of policies which directly engage sectors of the Hispanic community.

One example of “education policy as political opportunity” was the ASSET tuition bill in Colorado (as well as the previous five similar bills presented to legislatures over the past decade, which would have made college more affordable for undocumented students who qualify).

Call told FOX31 Denver last April that he was “disappointed” that House Republicans killed the bill in committee. I’d be disapointed, too, considering the opportunity it presented for engaging the Hispanic community. And remember, this was a measure that had broad support. Seven newspapers, seven school boards, six chambers of commerce, ten organizations that represent k-12, eight institutions of higher education, five local governments, twelve faith based organizations and tens of thousands of individuals and organizations endorsed ASSET.

Then, earlier this summer, when media attention was piqued around Metropolitan State University of Denver’s decision to institute a new tuition rate for undocumented students, Republicans missed another opportunity. Instead of engaging Hispanics by debating merits and implications of the bill, Colorado Republican legislators challenged the move by Metro’s Board of Regents, and called on Governor Hickenlooper to block the measure. They grumbled about collusion among Democrats, perhaps justifiably so, but in doing so lost the opportunity portray themselves as proactive problem solvers and representatives of the broader Hispanic community.

Immigration, another issue rated as less important than jobs and the economy to Hispanic voters in polling has proven to be similar lesson in lost opportunity for Republicans. Obama’s executive order of Deferred Action for the deportation of qualified minor children of undocumented immigrants engaged the media and boldly addressed an issue undeniably important to Hispanics. It’s not that all in the Hispanic community universally agree with Obama’s mandate, but it was an acknowledgement and a proactive action to a problem which has long demanded bipartisan solutions.

The Deferred Action mandate could turn out to be a liability to Democrats and a net loss in their electability standings, but it was a vehicle for Obama (and Democrats by proxy) to gain visibility in the Hispanic community and affirm their presence, participation, and importance in America. Lawmakers who are viewed as obstructionists, along with their supporters, were the losers in this window of opportunity, at least in the short term.

Hispanics’ view of the GOP as obstructionists might also extend to the GOP’s response to another issue important to Hispanic Voters – Healthcare.

Add in the selection of Ryan for Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, and you might be able to make a case charging the GOP with playing to their base of extremists at the expense drawing Hispanic votes. Ryan has voted against the DREAM act and is hostile to other issues Hispanics care about. Another lost opportunity.

So, with all this behind him, Ryan Call goes on ABC is able to say with a straight face that the GOP is making significant progress convincing Democratic Hispanics that they’re actually Republicans. And he’s not asked to justify it? He’s not asked to explain why his lack of success reflects the lost opportunities?

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