Rand Paul: GOP Needs More Outreach to Latinos

Rand Paul: GOP Needs More Outreach to Latinos
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Sen. Rand Paul -- who has made it a point to reach out to demographic groups that the Republican Party historically performs poorly with -- offered the GOP some tough love Tuesday morning while describing how the party should try to expand its appeal.

“I think just showing up will help to improve people’s attitudes and openness towards us, but you have to have something to say,” Paul told the friendly audience during a speech at the Newseum. “There is bias in the media. It is good that we monitor and check the media. But, for the most part, I think we need to acknowledge our own faults in trying to get our message out.”

The Kentucky senator suggested that before Republicans can make serious in-roads with the Hispanic community, immigration reform will have to be addressed. He argued against deportation of undocumented immigrants, saying that one way to appeal to more Latino voters “is saying, you know, ‘Mrs. Garcia’s nephew is not going to be sent home to Mexico.’ Everybody … knows somebody who doesn’t have the proper visa.”

Paul also asserted that Democrats prefer the status quo and that reform is more likely if Republicans control both chambers of Congress: “If we take over, I think it’s more likely that we’ll get some form of immigration reform, because I think some on the Democrat side would rather have nothing. They want what they want or nothing, because they want to keep beating us up.”

Paul delivered the opening remarks at a symposium titled Conservatives and Latino Media: Assessing and Addressing the Challenge. The event was sponsored by the Media Research Center (which tracks liberal bias in the media) and the American Principles Project, a nonprofit that promotes conservative values.

Asked by the MRC’s Brent Bozell how often he makes appearances on Spanish-language outlets such as Telemundo or Univision, Paul estimated that he had made more than half a dozen such appearances since becoming a senator in 2011. He added that he hoped to do more and thought that others in the GOP should too.

“We need to do more of it. I need to brush up on my Spanish,” Paul said. “Even though I took Spanish in school, mine’s not good enough to do an entire interview in Spanish.”

Over the past year, he has undertaken an outreach campaign to voting blocs that have broken strongly for Democrats in recent elections. He spoke to a predominantly African-American audience at Howard University last year, and the speech garnered mixed reviews. Last month, however, Paul gave a well-received speech to college students at the University of California, Berkeley about NSA spying.

These outreach efforts, along with his embrace of more moderate political positions, has been part of his strategy to distance and differentiate himself from his father ahead of his own likely presidential campaign. The elder Paul mounted several quixotic, and at times controversial, bids for president. Those campaigns drew intense support in libertarian quarters of the party by failed to spread significantly.

Paul also briefly touched on protests in Venezuela. He said that if the violence there continues and if the situation deteriorates further, the U.S. might have to consider granting asylum to some Venezuelans trying to “escape from tyranny.”

The symposium served as a launch pad for MRC Latino, an MRC offshoot that will monitor Spanish-speaking media for liberal bias. Speaking at a subsequent panel about Latino outreach were Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project, Daniel Garza of the LIBRE Initiative, Israel Ortega of the Heritage Foundation, and Izzy Santa of the Republican National Committee.

For his part, Paul is optimistic about the chances to spread conservatism among minority groups. “There is an enormous upside potential,” he said, adding that Republicans could probably double their share of the Hispanic vote. “But you got to get the door ajar.” 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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