National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus talks with participants after he met with Hispanic leaders as well as other community leaders from Colorado to gather input to help grow and renew the GOP. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

GOP chairman heads west in effort to better listen to Hispanics

DENVER— The head of the Republican Party acknowledges that the GOP needs to do a better job of talking to minority and other voters, even when there is not a looming election, but stops short of endorsing a plan to make most undocumented immigrants citizens as a way of winning Hispanic support.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is in the midst of a three-state western tour which took him to Denver, where he and other GOP officials spent two hours talking with Hispanic and community leaders. On Tuesday he spoke with community leaders, business owners and elected officials in Los Angeles. Republicans overwhelmingly lost the Hispanic and Asian vote in November and have talked about the need to win over the fast-growing demographic groups or face electoral obsolescence.

“Showing up four months, five months ahead of time isn’t going to cut it,” Priebus told reporters after the Colorado event, which was closed to the public. “We have to build authentic, real relationships, and that takes time.”

In response to questions from reporters, Priebus praised Republican U.S. senators who had worked with Democrats on an immigration bill that would give legal status to most people who are in the country without authorization, and he said it was good the country was debating an immigration overhaul.

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But he declined to endorse that approach as a way of winning minority voters. Many Hispanic and Asian leaders say the GOP’s tough stance on illegal immigration has alienated their communities.

“There are different views in our party on this subject,” Priebus said. “I’m not in the business of writing policy.”

Priebus listening tour coincides with a Gallup analysis showing that the GOP has ways to go to appeal to Latino voters. U.S. Hispanic adults are more than twice as likely to identify as or lean Democratic than Republican, according to Gallup Daily tracking data collected throughout 2012. In total, 51 percent of Latinos identified as or leaned Democratic, while a little less than a quarter (24 percent) identified with or leaned toward the GOP. Twenty percent were wholly independent, with no preferences for either party.

Priebus was in Los Angeles to meet with Hispanic and Asian voters and then planned to head to San Francisco to meet with technology companies. Republicans acknowledge that President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign was better at using technology to reach voters.

Priebus wraps up his trip in Seattle, where he hopes to focus on early voting, another area where the GOP lags behind Democrats.

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