Will GOP Candidates Get Lost in Translation?
Republican candidates will step onto what could be unfriendly territory this weekend as they face off on the nation's largest Spanish-language network.
After taking heat for failing to show up for a debate slated for September, this Sunday the Republican candidates will take the stage in Miami to address issues of importance to the Hispanic community, including immigration and Latin American foreign policy. All the candidates should be there, that is, except for Congressman Tom Tancredo, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration who has referred to Miami as "a third-world country" and put out a release today stating his intention to boycott the debate.
"It is the law that to become a naturalized citizen of this country you must have knowledge and understanding of English, including a basic ability to read, write, and speak the language," the statement said. "So what may I ask are our presidential candidates doing participating in a Spanish speaking debate? Pandering comes to mind."
What Tancredo deems "pandering" others call a necessary part of an election where Hispanics, who make up 15 percent of the population, are expected to comprise about 9 percent of the electorate.
Terse rhetoric around illegal immigration, a subject which had Republican candidates posturing to out tough one another on the issue at the CNN/YouTube debate last week, will provide fodder for Univision's moderators. Network anchor Jorge Ramos has called for providing legal status to undocumented immigrants and his co-moderator Maria Elena Salinas wrote in August that the Republican candidates are engaged in a battle of "the anti-immigrants."
That's a battle the candidates may tone down for Sunday, saving their most pointed critique not for illegal immigration, but rather focusing on Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who are both unpopular with many Latinos in the U.S.
In a memo sent out on Wednesday, Al Cardenas--Mitt Romney's point-man on Hispanic outreach--outlined his strategy this way: "Romney will be able to make clear what he believes and has campaigned on - that legal immigration is a great source of strength for America, but it cannot remain so if we as a nation do not stop illegal immigration. On Sunday, Mitt Romney will leave no doubt that he is not anti-immigrant."
But even that may not be enough to bring back the Hispanic voters that largely defected from the Republican party in the 2006 mid-term elections after 40 percent of them voted for President Bush in 2004. (This year, even long-time Republican party image maker Lionel Sosa grew fed up with the anti-immigration rhetoric, which has said bordered on anti-Hispanic, within the party's ranks. He's backing Democrat Bill Richardson's campaign.)
According to a report out by the Pew Hispanic Center this week
When the Univision debate is over, Republicans will have had their shot to speak to Hispanics but there may be no winner on the stage.
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