This past Sunday, on Meet The Press, RNC Chair Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) acknowledged that the current climate of undeterred public immigrant-bashing along with an immigration policy of “attrition through enforcement” has put Republican candidates at a disadvantage when it comes to the Latino vote. Sen Martinez urged all of his fellow GOP colleagues to take a rational stance on immigration reform and to cease all anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric.
MR. BROKAW: Senator Martinez, as you know, politics is about keeping score. I know this is tough for you to hear, probably, but you were 0-for-3 last Tuesday. You’re a Republican; you are from Florida, that went to the Democrats; and you’re Hispanic, or Latino in some parts of this country, and the Hispanics went overwhelmingly for the Democrats this time. Jill Lawrence wrote in USA TODAY: “`If the Republicans don’t make their peace with Hispanic voters, they’re not going to win presidential elections anymore. The math just isn’t there.’” That’s according to Simon Rosenberg, head of the NDN, a Democratic group that studies Hispanic voters.” How do you get back to the Hispanics?
SEN. MARTINEZ: Governor Jeb Bush–former Governor Jeb Bush last week made a comment that if Republicans don’t figure it out and do the math that we’re going to be relegated to minority status. I’ve been preaching this for a long time to my colleagues within my party. I think that the very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate set a very bad tone for our brand as Republicans. The fact of the matter is I think in Florida there was not a great ideological shift, but I think there was plenty of room for improvement in how that state was looked upon.
The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican Party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters, where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain. Senator McCain did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we’re going to be relegated to minority status.