SEARCY, Ark. (AP) — Former Bush White House adviser and Republican strategist Karl Rove said Tuesday night that Hispanics are the natural allies of conservatives and the GOP will be “doomed” if it alienates them.
Speaking at a private university in central Arkansas, Rove said Hispanic voters are a key constituency for Republicans as the party grows and warned against using language that would drive away their support.
“If we do with Latinos what we did with African-Americans, Republicans and conservatives will be doomed,” Rove said during a question-and-answer session after his speech at Harding University. “Latinos and Hispanics are by and large the natural allies of conservatives.”
Rove served as deputy chief of staff and adviser to former President George W. Bush, who unsuccessfully pushed for comprehensive immigration reform. Rove didn’t single out any proposals or figures in the party that he believed were alienating Hispanics. Instead, he singled out U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Texas GOP Senate hopeful Ted Cruz as prominent Latino leaders in the Republican Party.
“They’re our people,” Rove said. “And yet we’ve adopted language that makes them feel unwelcome.”
Rove said it’s possible for the party to support immigration reform efforts such as a guest worker program that offer a path to citizenship as well as stronger border protections.
Rove, who appears regularly as a contributor on Fox News and writes a column for the Wall Street Journal, spoke as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney squared off for their second debate of the campaign. Rove said that whoever wins in the November election will face enormous challenges on the nation’s spending and debt.
“Together these challenges represent a real threat to everything we believe as Americans,” Rove said.
Rove said it will be impossible for Congress to address all of its unfinished business — including an increase in the debt ceiling and whether to extend the tax cuts Bush signed into law — between the election and next year.
“We’re going to have an enormous problem by the end of the year figuring out what we’re going to do and what we’re going to delay doing and how long we’re going to delay doing it,” Rove said.
Rove spoke in a congressional district that’s now represented by his protege, freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin. Griffin, who worked in the Bush White House with Rove, is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Herb Rule. Griffin did not attend Tuesday night’s speech and did not meet with Rove while he was in Arkansas, a spokesman said.