Latino, Gay GOP Groups Put On Standby While RNC Retools Its Messaging

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus gavels the Republican National Convention open in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

After heavy losses and few gains in the general election, Republicans and conservatives realized one thing: their message isn’t resonating with most voters. Where they disagree is if the problem is how they’re pushing the message or if they’re doing anything to actually broaden the party’s appeal — notably when it comes to Latino and gay voters within the Party.

At the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting last week, newly-reelected Chairman Reince Priebus made clear he’s in the camp that believes Republicans simply need to deliver the message in a new way. He said the party needs to articulate its “timeless principles … in ways that are modern … relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters.” He also said the party should embrace technology like “Skype-based training sessions and Google hangouts.”

Details on exactly how the RNC plans to do any of this are scant at the moment. The organization is still in a “reviewing phase,” having put together a fact-finding commission called the “Growth and Opportunity Project” back in early December. The group was tasked with coming up with a list of recommendations to build membership in the GOP.

Glenn McCall, a black Republican and the RNC’s committee chairman in South Carolina, is one of five co-chairs on the project. He’s specifically in charge of overseeing its findings on minority and women voters.

“We need to engage them in a meaningful way,” McCall told TheBlaze, “asking them to come to the table. It’s not about outreach. It’s truly engaging the community.” He also said the way elected Republicans talk about issues that affect minorities and women “could use updating.” Indeed, a memo recently sent out to congressional Republicans by the Hispanic Leadership Network advised the party on “tonally sensitive messaging” in discussing immigration, according to the news site BuzzFeed.

McCall said the project’s recommendations on broadening the GOP’s demographic appeal are due in a report to Priebus in early March.

There are, however, groups of voters who routinely feel ignored by the party, even within the party itself: Latino Republicans and gay Republicans among them.

“Did you see me or any Hispanics at this [winter meeting]? No,” Alci Maldonado, president of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly, told TheBlaze. “To my knowledge, no [NRHA] chairman from any state was in that meeting.” The NRHA is a grassroots organization that recruits Latino voters to the GOP, originally formed by the RNC in 1974. The two groups are no longer directly affiliated, though Priebus is a member of the NRHA. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is also a member.

Asked why she wasn’t invited to speak at the meeting, Maldonado said she had “no idea, to be perfectly frank,” adding that she had “no idea why they’re behind the times on this.” An RNC spokesperson said invites to the meeting were only sent to members and that there were “several Hispanic members” who conducted a panel discussion on the GOP’s efforts to engage Latino voters.

“They have not taken advantage of us to the full capacity,” Maldonado said. “They could put us at a roundtable. But I’m the last person to know when they’re having a meeting.”

Obama also won the gay vote by a handy margin. Gays voted for him 3-to-1. Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder of the gay Republican group GOProud, said its time for the GOP “to take their heads out of the sand and admit that gays exist.”

“Too many Republicans simply write off gay people as the unreachable 47 percent,” LaSalvia said. “So they just ignore gay voters and addressing how issues affect them.” He said GOProud has a “good relationship” with the RNC and they’ve talked recently about gay voter outreach. No additional plans, however, have been made for the groups to collaborate on messaging or otherwise.

“I would love to help and look forward to seeing how the RNC decides to move forward,” LaSalvia said.

Like Priebus, Rae Chornenky, president of the National Federation of Republican Women, believes the problem isn’t the GOP’s message itself but more so a matter of the party not using media effectively to communicate with women voters. In the general election, 55 percent of women voted for President Obama.

“We are examining those methods of communication,” Chornenky said. “And we’re examining other ways, very simple, obvious things.” She said her organization wants to purchase more air-time in local markets, “making sure that we do have some type of media availability to get the message out.”

She also said Republicans “don’t quite get the media coverage” Democrats receive. Asked if the conservative media have not provided a balance on this front, Chornenky said no but that complaining about it isn’t helpful to the GOP’s cause. “Energy really can’t be wasted waiting for some sort of true balance to occur,” she said. “It’s up to us to put the boots on the ground, or the heels on ground and get out the message ourselves.”