The Republican National Committee did the unthinkable, they praised Democrats and said Mitt Romney had not shaped his immigration policy yet.
“He’s still deciding what his position on immigration is,” RNC Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclan said. “I can’t talk about what his proposal is going to be. I can’t talk about something I don’t know.”
An hour later, Inclan tweeted that she had misspoken about Romney’s position on immigration and pointed to the campaign website which lists their stance.
At the same event today, announcing a more aggressive effort to win Latinos in six battleground states, the RNC acknowledged the Obama campaign in 2008 had organized a better grassroots effort.
“We can always do better, and we are trying to rebuild relationships and be the face of the GOP,” says Inclan. At the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington D.C., Inclan introduced a group of Latinos who will lead the RNC’s voter outreach effort in six key battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Virginia.
The recently named state outreach directors include Elsa Barnhill, a native of Nevada who has worked with Senator John Ensign. She says she has talked to fellow Latinos in her state who say they are unhappy with President Obama’s four years in office, and these are some of the potential voters she will work to attract.
Barnhill and the other state outreach directors say they will work to woo Latinos through get-out-the-vote efforts, meetings, and advertising in both English and Spanish. Inclan also says they are making use of extensive social media tools in both languages.
Pablo Pantoja, a young Puerto Rican who will head the RNC efforts out of Florida, worked previously for the Romney campaign during the primaries. In a sign of the growing influence of Latinos in central Florida, Pantoja will be based out of the Orlando area.
While Florida has a high number of Latino voters, states like North Carolina are only 9 percent Latino, but has seen a high rate of growth in recent years, according to Hispanic state outreach coordinator Neri Martinez.
Inclan stressed the number one issue they will use to attract Latino voters will be the economy.
“Clearly the Obama policies devastated the economy,” says Inclan, adding “there is nothing more personal than when you come here to achieve the American Dream and the economy makes it hard to achieve.”
Responding to how Republicans would counter the Democratic message that the RNC is calling for budget cuts that will slash services popular among Latino voters, Inclan says “no one is saying let’s do away with everything; there has to be some middle ground.”
But the “elephant in the room” (no pun intended) for the assembled Republicans was – once again – immigration. Inclan said one of President Obama’s failed promises was immigration reform, adding Obama had deported more Latinos than any other President.
Inclan stressed immigration would not be the primary issue in their voter efforts, saying most Hispanic voters are born in this country, “and we are American.”
“There are cities with high unemployment; to assume the only thing we care about is immigration is insulting.”