GUY RAZ, host:
In last month's midterm election, Hispanic voters again sided solidly with Democrats. The decades-long trend is increasingly worrisome to Republicans. So in one of several new outreach efforts, former GOP House speaker Newt Gingrich has started a Web site. It's called TheAmericano.com. And over the past two days, he's used it to host a forum for conservative Hispanics.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
DON GONYEA: The Latino population is growing in the U.S. It's projected to total 25 percent of the country's population by midcentury. In '08, candidate Barack Obama won two out of three Latino votes. In this year's big GOP sweep, Democrats still got 60 percent of the Latino vote.
Those numbers are what motivate Newt Gingrich, who opened The Americano forum yesterday.
Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (TheAmericano.com): Margaret Thatcher used to say: First, you win the argument. Then you win the vote. Well, in order to win the argument, you have to have an argument. And we have to have a space in which anybody who wants to can pile on, bring ideas, talk about concepts.
GONYEA: Three hundred fifty people attended. They came from businesses, universities, from politics, including Lionel Sosa, a veteran ad exec who has worked on seven Republican presidential campaigns.
Mr. LIONEL SOSA (Advertising Executive): I believe that we are missing a great opportunity. We as Republicans are not really emphasizing what brings us together, and that's conservative values, love of the country, love of family, personal responsibility, hard work, optimism. Those are the things that we should be communicating to Latinos, and we're doing that very poorly.
GONYEA: Most of the attendees call themselves conservatives and Republicans. They're a minority within the Latino community. Gustavo Bujanda is a vice president at a Dallas PR firm.
Mr. GUSTAVO BUJANDA: In being a conservative, I find myself that I also disconnect tremendously with where, at least right now, the Republican Party, or large parts of the Republican Party, are.
GONYEA: He's talking about immigration and the tough language Republicans often use when debating the issue. Former Colorado congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's name came up a lot at this conference. This speech is from his '08 run for the GOP presidential nomination. It is vintage Tancredo.
(Soundbite of archived audio)
Mr. TOM TANCREDO (Former Representative, Republican, Colorado): We see our communities turning into what Theodore Roosevelt called polyglot boarding houses, made up of immigrants who refuse to assimilate and refuse to speak English...
GONYEA: Bujanda says such words, though not representative of Republicans as a whole, send a message about the party.
Mr. BUJANDA: When I hear members of the extreme right of the Republican Party speak in the language that they do about immigration, I frankly take offense because there's something about me that they don't like.
GONYEA: He says there needs to be outreach to Latino voters, yes, but also to the party itself. The conference featured a lot of such dialogue during formal sessions but also in hallways and over meals. And despite all the talk of making a positive case for Latinos to embrace Republicans whose core ideals match theirs, there was also plenty of frustration that Democrats are viewed so much more favorably by Latino voters. Again, Lionel Sosa.
Mr. SOSA: I don't think that the Democrats are doing anything right. They certainly haven't delivered on the promise of creating more jobs for Latinos. They have not delivered on the promise of bringing immigration reform up to the forefront. They had a sitting president; they had both houses of Congress. They could have done something, but they did nothing.
GONYEA: This is just one part of an increasingly aggressive GOP push for Latino votes. It's a long-term project, though the party would like to see some dividends as early as 2012.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.