Examining The GOP's Latino Problem

Exit polls show that 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama, compared with just 27 percent who picked Mitt Romney. That marks the widest gap in Latino support between two presidential candidates in recent history. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas about the GOP's trouble attracting Latino voters.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Since Tuesday night's election, the Republican Party's been doing a little self-reflection of its own. Exit polls show that 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama, compared with just 27 percent who picked Mitt Romney. Now, that marks the widest gap in Latino support between two presidential candidates in recent history.

Al Cardenas is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, and he says it's time for the GOP to take a long look in the mirror.

AL CARDENAS: You know, a number of members of our party took a position on immigration reform, which is fair, but I thought that the language and content was not appropriate, and many members of the community who - including many Republicans and conservatives - were offended by some of the language unnecessarily being used. And so I think part of it is the fact that it became a trust or respect issue. As many of us are now calling it after three election cycles, it's become a gateway issue.

RAZ: Are we talking about changing tone, or are we talking about changing the philosophical underpinnings of the Republican Party?

CARDENAS: Well, I think, obviously, the tone's important. I mean, the Hispanic community is a critical community. It's significantly important. There are 50,000 Hispanics turning 18 every month in our country. Fifty percent of the births in America are minority births, and the country is demographically going to be much more reflective of our minority communities that are growing by heaps and bounds.

If you already didn't sense that this was a reality, you now empirically knew that it is a reality. And if you want to survive as a party, as a majority party, there's no other path to the White House for 2016 than to make significant gains. I mean, our floor now with the Hispanic vote nationally is 27 percent. And if it doesn't get to 38 or 40 percent by 2016, wave the White House goodbye.

RAZ: So if Republican leaders came to you and said, OK, Al, what do we need to do immediately? What do we need to start advocating, or what do we need to change our positions on, what would you say?

CARDENAS: See, it's not a philosophical battle. It's a commitment to be persuasive with our philosophy within the community. I am a firm believer, as a lifelong conservative, that the issues of smaller government, less taxes, more freedom, less opportunity, less regulations are as attractive to Hispanics as they are to anyone else. But you've got to dedicate the time, the effort, the resources. We've got to get through immigration reform, make sure it's fair.

And then we've got to dedicate resources, even in the off years, to reach out to the Latino community door by door and make sure that we show up and that we show up with intensity that's required to be competitive with a Democratic Party that have learned the ropes very well.

RAZ: That's Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union. Mr. Cardenas, thank you so much.

CARDENAS: Oh, my pleasure.

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