Republican leaders insist they have made progress reaching out to
Hispanics, who helped propel President Barack Obama and other
Democrats to victory in the 2012 election.
That effort has been complicated, however, by the refusal of
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to take up
comprehensive immigration reform legislation that many think could
help swing Hispanics towards the party.
As campaigning heats up for the November elections, Republicans now
see public disaffection with Obamacare, along with the president's
low approval numbers, as their key to keeping control of the House
and retaking the Senate from Democrats.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus voiced
confidence on Tuesday that voter displeasure with Obamacare would
make 2014 a "tsunami-type election."
Republicans tend to do better in midterm elections, when voters are
traditionally older and whiter, than in years with presidential
elections, when Democratic-leaning minorities and young people turn
out to vote in greater numbers.
Republican leaders believe they are expanding their electoral map by
fielding potentially competitive candidates for such Democratic
Senate seats as Colorado and New Hampshire. Concerned Democrats are
urging big-money donors to contribute to this year's campaign,
instead of looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz brushed
off Republican predictions of big wins in November.
"I really hope that my counterpart remains bullish and believes
Democrats are in the dumps," said Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic
representative from Florida. "They were predicting up to hours
before the polls closed on election day in 2012 that we would be
inaugurating President Mitt Romney, too. So their prediction
accuracy isn't exactly on the mark as of late."
Priebus said Republicans had made great strides on some
recommendations from its 2013 Growth and Opportunity Project, dubbed
the "autopsy" report on the party's outlook following their 2012
defeat in the presidential race. Those efforts include spending tens
of millions of dollars on efforts to catch up to Democrats on voter
data and technology programs.
Priebus acknowledged the party had
work to do on addressing the immigration issue as it seeks to
enhance its appeal to the fast-growing Hispanic electorate.
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"I think that we do need to tackle this issue. I think there is a
general agreement within the party that needs to happen, but there
is not agreement as to what, exactly, that package needs to look
like," Priebus told a Christian Science Monitor-hosted breakfast.
Republican leaders had believed that passing immigration reform in
2013 or 2014 could help the party seem friendlier to minority voters
after a 2012 election that saw Romney cite the "47 percent of the
people … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they
A comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the
Democratic-controlled Senate in June 2013 has stalled in the
Republican-controlled House. Republican lawmakers have cited deep
divisions in the party over the issue, including granting legal
status to 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Wasserman Schultz also rejected the Republican talk of progress on
swaying minority voters, saying that Democratic positions resonate
with Hispanics even beyond the immigration issue.
She also pointed to a series of statements by Republican officials
seen by some as offensive to minorities, including Wisconsin
Republican Representative Paul Ryan's comment last week that "we
have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in
particular, of men not working" — a statement critics saw as aimed
Democrats maintain their edge in using voter data and technology to
mobilize supporters, Wasserman Schultz added, noting the DNC was
investing in improving its programs.
She said Democrat Terry McAuliffe's victory last year in the
Virginia governor's race showcased Democrats' organizing advantage.
(Editing by Peter Cooney and Andrew Hay)
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