In the Year of Trump, can the GOP win Latinos and other minorities to the fold? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich thinks so.
Gingrich, reportedly interested in being Donald Trump's running mate, warned in a report that was quietly released on May 7th that the "wrong words cripple or kill" Republican outreach to minorities and that Latinos should be part of a Republican campaign for president. The report was posted on the GOP website two days after the "taco bowl incident", where Donald Trump posted a tweet on Cinco de Mayo posing with a taco bowl.
In the "work in progress" report that Gingrich authored and that closely resembles the Republican “post mortem” from the GOP’s Growth and Opportunity Project, Gingrich states that at least five Republican candidates were defeated in 2010 and 2012 "because they used language in a way that isolated them and alienated voters."
All of the seats were winnable and had the candidates won, the GOP would have a secure majority in the House and Senate, Gingrich states. For Democrats, wrong words in Iowa and Colorado cost them in 2014.
"Thinking though the concepts and words to avoid can be a key to avoiding defeat," Gingrich said in the report titled "2016 Election Principles: Lessons from the Last Three Elections."
Newt Gingrich came under attack in the past for calling Spanish the "language of the ghetto", and he once called for making English the official language of the country, but he later apologized for his comments with a widely viewed apology in Spanish.
Trump's Actions vs. Gingrich's Advice
But his campaign prescription is one that may come too late for Trump.
Trump began his bid for the GOP nomination by trashing Mexico and Mexicans, accusing Mexico of sending into the U.S. people bringing drugs, and who are criminals and rapists. He's gone on since then to make other offending remarks about Muslims, women, a reporter with a muscular disorder, veterans and others.
Trump's poll numbers have not suffered, despite the sort of words that Gingrich advises against. Since making the comments, Turmp has gone on to become the presumptive GOP nominee with support from party leaders.
But polling paints a bleak picture for his ability to win the favorability of Latino voters. A recent poll by Latino Decisions, a firm that specializes in Latino voting attitudes, shows that Trump is poised to get the lowest vote ever among Latinos as the Republican candidate.
Nonetheless, Gingrich's report, requested by Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, argues that the racial and ethnic changes occurring across the country should not be seen as destiny, but as an opportunity for the Republican party to expand its reach by fighting against stereotypes of Republican hostility towards minorities.
The report says that reaching out to Latinos should be seen not only as expanding the base of the party, but also as a strategy for biting into the current Democratic coalition of voters that is making it increasingly difficult for Republicans to compete in national elections.
"The GOP has both the potential and the need to develop a national campaign in 2016—one that combines widespread inclusion of ethnic groups, the use of modern technology and information systems, and the development of an effective national campaign narrative," the report states. It goes on to mention the GOP's Growth and Opportunity Project and reasserts the original principles of the "post-mortem" report, which it claims that Preibus has "vigorously" implemented.
Gingrich is adamant that the goal for connecting with Latinos and other minority groups is not "outreach" but "inclusion." Successful Republican candidates "built minority events into their schedules, created advisory groups from leaders of the communities, developed internships for young people from the community, etc."
"Showing up is the essential first step to building bridges to minority communities. The goal has to be inclusion, not outreach," he wrote. "Outreach is when old order makes a decision and then calls community leaders to inform them. Inclusion is when the community is in on the discussion before the decision."
The principles laid out by the report centered around past failures and successes in communicating to Latino voters. The report mentions Mike Coffman of Colorado whose surprisingly easy re-election was built in part on his learning Spanish and debating in it against Democrat Andrew Romanoff; his opponent was more fluent, but Coffman got great credit for trying, says the report.
The Gingrich report points to several offices that were central to Republicans, including Nevada and Colorado, where races are increasingly difficult to win with the growing Latino population. Latinos now make up about 27 percent of the population in Nevada and about 21 percent in Colorado, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census.
With the growing number of Latinos, the Gingrich report argues that the GOP can no longer ignore the diversity of the country and must "make a conscious effort to increase the acceptability of the Republican candidate" to Latinos and other groups which are an important element of the Democrat coalition.
Gingrich: From Contract With Amerca to The Americano
Gingrich, considered the architect of the Contract With America, has long been believed to have a deep interest in the vice president spot alongside Trump. In a recent interview with Fox News, Gingrich said he would be "hard pressed not to say yes" if he were asked to be Trump's vice president and Trump has said that Gingrich is "absolutely" on his short list of candidates for the position.
Gingrich’s appeal is particularly interesting given his past outreach among Latino Republicans, namely his The Americano project, a bilingual website that promoted Latino conservatives. The site appears to have been taken down, but was widely reported on at launch. A video posted on YouTube announced The Americano's First Annual Forum in 2011, in which Gingrich highlighted the participation of presidents José Aznar of Spain and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia.
At the time, Gingrich toured the country through a series of roundtables exploring Latino issues and expanding his network among curious and eager Latino Republicans. The centerpiece of Gingrich’s outreach strategy stemming from these roundtables was the most specific plan on immigration reform among all the other Republican candidates seeking the nomination in 2012. His Red Card Solution, developed by the Krieble Foundation, would make it easier to hire “non-citizen workers” and was argued to be more responsive to the needs of the economy.
Can Gingrich Bring Trump Supporters?
The report also comes in a timely manner with important billionaire supporters who once lined up behind Gingrich throwing their weight behind Trump. Gingrich's argument for the vice president spot now has his biggest advocate onboard Trump’s run for president, with Sheldon Adelson announcing his support for Trump earlier this month. Sheldon Adelson was among the most ardent money-supporters for Newt Gingrich’s run in 2012. Gingrich’s report also contains a foreword by Preibus, chairman of the Republican Party and seems to be a coordinated political and economic appeal to Trump in support of Gingrich’s candidacy.
Reaction to the report, which has not been heavily publicized by Gingrich, was mixed. Rosario Marín, former Treasurer of the United States, appointed by the first Bush administration and a long time advocate for Latino Republicans, responded harshly to the report and the notion that her friend would side with Trump.
"I supported Newt Gingrich in 2012, but I was shocked to listen to Newt saying that he would run with Donald Trump after everything Trump has said about Mexicans," said Marín, who was born in Mexico City, Mexico.
However, Marín, who repeatedly called Trump "the little orange man" in a phone conversation, acknowledges the appeal Newt could bring to a Trump ticket.
"One of the reasons I supported him (Gingrich) was because his immigration plan was the best option" among the other Republicans and he was the only candidate that made a serious effort to learn from Latino Republicans," said Marín. "He romanced the Hispanic community and he was thoughtful when he spoke to us," she said.
Jacob Monty, a labor attorney in Texas who has been appointed to several boards by former Gov. Rick Perry, has become a reluctant supporter who describes himself as a "Bush Republican." He said he is now actively raising money for Donald Trump. Monty says that after some serious soul searching, he does not see Trump's rhetoric to be any worse than Mitt Romney's "self deportation" plan in 2012, yet the party is holding Trump to a different standard.
"Let's examine Trump's proposal here. His rhetoric is not good, it's bad, it's not inviting, but he is a businessman and his 'touchback proposal' is no different than Sen. (John) Cornyn's proposal, and he won a big share of Latino voters," said Monty, who is Mexican American.
Monty says that Gingrich would help Trump heal wounds between the GOP and Latinos.
"One cool thing about Newt Gingrich is he has a lot of Latino support" in the Republican party. "I ended up on Newt's team trying to keep Romney from getting the nomination and I know Newt has strong links to the Mexican-American GOP community that would help Trump," said Monty.
Another advocate is Colorado Republican Jerry Natividad, who is listed as a supporter of Gingrich's proposal. In an email exchange, Natividad said, "Newt has always sought engagement with Hispanics, he's done this by his message when he ran for president and was the only one that took bold steps then."
While acknowledging the issues with Trump and Latinos, Natividad also said he believes a Gingrich vice presidency would help Trump. "There will need to be a joint effort between Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich that opens the door of opportunity to make a difference," Natividad said.
The report lists a set of principles the GOP must follow, including promoting and recruiting candidates that are more "presentable" in today's technologically sophisticated political environment, and training candidates to avoid major mistakes that can have punishing consequences in the age of "rapid-response teams".
While the country's changing demographics presents challenges, the GOP has shown that effective minority outreach has had measurable results in the past. The report says, "In every campaign we studied, there was a direct correlation between paying attention to minority communities, events, activities and key dates and the increase in votes. Showing up is the essential first step..."
With Newt Gingrich's name being so prominently reported as a potential VP candidate, some may question whether or not the report has been very effective at changing the ability of the GOP to reach out to Latinos.
Natividad finished with the assurance that Newt can help the GOP get back on track only if Trump takes the opportunity: "I believe Newt can help with this message, but will Donald accept and embrace this message and reach out to our community and communicate this sincerely?" Natividad said, however, he believed Trump would ultimately listen to Gingrich if he were his VP.