Reps. Tom Reynolds, Mario Diaz-Balart and Luis Fortuño
With the commencement of the 2006 legislative session, the countdown to Election Day 2006 also begins. Following a presidential election in which Hispanics turned out to vote in record numbers, the 2006 mid-term elections hold the promise of even greater political involvement by our nation’s largest minority group.
On January 5 - 306 days before Election Day - we saw the first of what will surely be many reports regarding Hispanics and the 2006 elections. The Latino Coalition’s “2005 National Latino Survey” highlights some promising information for the Republican Party, while showing us how much work remains to be done in communicating our agenda’s benefits to the Hispanic community.
The survey demonstrated Hispanic voters’ conservative stances on economic and social issues. According to the report, “By a margin of 44-9 percent, Hispanics support reducing taxes on families and businesses as the best way to grow the economy and create jobs... By a margin of 55-35 percent, Hispanic voters would prefer to be covered by a private health care plan over a government-run program... By a margin of 57-27 percent, Hispanics identify themselves as pro-life, while 62 percent oppose gay marriage.”
Despite the apparent commonality between policies supported by Hispanics and those advocated by Republicans on the economy, health care and social issues, the Hispanics polled believe Congressional Democrats do a better job than Republicans of handling each of these issues.
These findings seem to affirm what Ronald Reagan famously claimed over 25 years ago - that “Hispanics are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.” Indeed, Republicans must continue working hard to communicate to Hispanics the core beliefs we share on tax relief, market forces over one-size-fits-all government solutions, and on life issues, among others.
The survey also highlighted information of particular relevance to our efforts in this year’s mid-term elections. In terms of Congressional approval ratings, Republicans in Congress received less favorable ratings among Hispanics compared to Congressional Democrats. Furthermore, the generic ballot shows Hispanics would favor a Democrat candidate over a Republican.
However, Congressional elections are about individual candidates and the ideas they support. Generic polls and party identity will have no bearing on Election Day 2006 because they fail to take into account the people running, their policies and how they fit individual districts. No candidate runs solely on the basis of party affiliation, but rather on the issues of greatest importance to their constituents. It’s one thing for voters to say that they will vote against a party, and quite another for them to actually vote against the incumbent representative they have grown familiar with, or the tireless candidate who has made it a point to reach out to Hispanics. What matters to Hispanics in Miami differs markedly from what those in Albuquerque care about, and only a local strategy can seize on those differences and synthesize them into Republican votes on Election Day.
Republicans must nonetheless communicate more effectively with Hispanics about what our Party stands for to make greater inroads with this community, on a district-by-district basis. Republicans’ success in recent elections has been due in large part to the rise of Bush Hispanics. Our success in 2006, however, will depend on the role of blocs like Wilson Hispanics in New Mexico’s First District and O’Donnell Hispanics in Colorado’s Seventh District. If you’ve never heard of Wilson or O’Donnell, it is because they are focused on making sure their Hispanic constituents have.
2006 promises to be an exciting year as House Republicans advance an agenda that will position us for success in November by focusing on our national security and keeping our economy growing and creating jobs. In less than nine months, the ballot test that matters most will take place in 435 districts nationwide. Hispanics will continue playing a pivotal role in determining control of the U.S. House, and Republicans remain intent on showing those Hispanics who don’t know they’re Republicans why they are.
Rep. Tom Reynolds is Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Luis Fortuño are members of the NRCC Executive Committee.