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Martinez Will Reach Out to Latino Voters, Party Donors

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez (R) has been chosen to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Martinez will remain in the Senate; Mike Duncan, the general counsel at the RNC, will handle the day-to-day operations of the committee.

The selection of Martinez makes sense on a number of levels for the party, which has been looking for a successor to outgoing RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman. First, Martinez is Hispanic (he was born in Cuba) and Republicans have made no secret that they will compete aggressively for this rapidly growing bloc of voters. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote; two years later just three in ten Hispanics voted for Republicans.

Second, Martinez comes from the fundraising hotbed of Florida and has deep financial contacts both within the state and nationally. Mehlman set a variety of fundraising records at the RNC thanks to his past experience as campaign manager for Bush's 2004 re-election bid. Martinez will be expected to follow in those large fundraising footsteps. In his 2004 race for Senate, Martinez raised and spent $13 million.

Martinez has long been close to the Bush Administration. Prior to winning his Senate seat, he served as secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development (2001-2003). He resigned that post to run for Senate.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 14, 2006; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Next: Election 2006: Winners and Losers


Did you know that Kirk Fordham, who was a key player in the Mark Foley scandal (he was friends with Foley, worked for him, and also worked for Tom Reynolds until early October) worked for Mel Martinez's Senate campaign from January 2004 to January 2005? So Martinez is going to have Schiavo AND Foley baggage. What kind of a pick is this for the White House?

Martinez was supposed to win easily in 2004. But his primary campaign, where he blasted his opponent for being the darling of homosexual extremists, alienated many voters, as did his appearance and his ugly ads against Betty Castor. In the end he only won by about 2-3%, and performed poorly in some big Republican areas of Florida.

He's a poor choice, and if we had a media that was honest about all his flaws and scandals, everyone would know it.

Posted by: Jon | November 16, 2006 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Seems like the perfect way to slide Jeb into the Senate in 08. Martinez's seat won't be up again until 2010. Martinez giving up the seat for Jeb now looks bad with W still in the White House. My hunch is Martinez resigns in 08/09 to focus full time on the RNC job, and Governor Crist, with W on his way out, appoints Jeb as the replacement.

Posted by: Rolo | November 16, 2006 4:01 AM | Report abuse


They are not after a majority of minority voters - they simply want to slice off enough of them to cripple the Dems. There are enough social conservatives in both groups that a variation on how they appeal to middle income white evangelicals might appeal to middle class minority social conservatives. Furthermore, the effort helps soften their image among suburban white women who do not agree with the Republican's social views but might be more inclined to agree with their economic program. It is all pretty cynical.

The furor on the right is amusing. Anyone who doubts that the Republicans have a pretty strong nativist element should visit some right wing blogs dsicussing the appointment. The wing nuts are hysterical over this. I saw a bunch of folks arguing that W is a closet Democrat.

Posted by: JimD in FL | November 14, 2006 7:56 PM | Report abuse

So, essentially Martinez is a figurehead selected for his ethnicity and not to do any real work. They pick another guy to run the show, but Martinez is supposed to parade his Latino credentials around.

This is going to fool Hispanic voters like Steele fooled African American voters.

Posted by: NaR | November 14, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

As usual drindl has got it right (by implication)with her last post (tragic indeed!). Debating the merits of the Martinez selection while the issue of the Iraq War still looms is like debating on the color of the band aid to place on the Iceberg made hole on the Titanic.

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 14, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Having lived in both Arizona and Florida, naming Martinez was a BIG mistake if the objective was to gain the hispanic vote. I also don't see him as an effective spokesman. He has the personality of a beached whale.

Posted by: Another Floridian | November 14, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

At the State of Sunshine, we believe that this was not a good move for the R.N.C...

Here is our post.

Posted by: Jim Johnson | November 14, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

David and Truth Hunter: You are correct. Mel Martinez will attract Hispanic votes like Steele, Swann, and Blackwell attracted black votes.

White Cuban Americans are closer to conservative anglo americans than they are to other hispanics. They are very race conscious, for example. Very few "negritos" among the Cuban American upper crust.

Martinez will have little effect on the votes of hispanics hailing from Mexico, the Dominican Rep., El Salvador, etc., and especially those "little Guatemalan men" LOL

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | November 14, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I continue to be amazed at the emphasis everyone puts on the "latino voter." That is an oxymoron -- immigrants can't vote, and latino citizens tend to vote at lower rates than whites or African-Americans.

I also continue to be amazed at people who think the GOP is "xenophobic." The fact of the matter is that GOP is in the pocket of Big Business, and Big Business can't get enough cheap immigrant labor. In reality, AMERICANS are xenophobic. In poll after poll, a majority of Americans want less immigration. Even 55% of self-described "liberals" want less immigration.

If the GOP should be pandering to anyone, it should be to white males. The Democratic victory last week was mainly due to defection of white males. Whites still make up 70+ percent of the population. Compare this to 13 percent for Latinos. You could alienate 5% of latino voters in order to gain 1% more white voters and still be ahead of the game.

Posted by: Paul | November 14, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

It seems hard to believe that The Rs would run Jeb, no editorial comments on his capability.

Too many Bushes already. It's already obvious that Old Man Bush has wupped Junior upside the head and put in his Baker team to try and fix Dubya's mess.

THat's why I don't count on a President Hillary. Too Many Clintons in one lifetime-what's left of it.

The Grand Ol' Party seems to be slowly collapsing. The only questyion is whether it will splinter before the 08 election, or pull together in another unholy alliance.

Posted by: Bob | November 14, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Undoubtedly the GOP thinks Martinez is a hat trick.... Hispanic, a Flordia Bushie, and $$$.

But, while they weren't looking someone moved the net.

A Cuban Hispanic doesn't have broad Hispanic appeal. Tokens aren't the same as policy.

The Bush connection, while Martinez MAY benefit Jeb, it will keep the party in lock-step with the now tarnished Bush family dynasty.

And $$$, well isn't that a GOP "101" anyway.

Seems they rushed the choice, now they can regret at leisure.

Posted by: Truth Hunter | November 14, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse


'Baghdad - The Iraqi minister of higher education announced that teaching in Baghdad's universities will be halted in the wake of Tuesday's mass kidnapping of ministry employees.

"We have no other option than to halt the teaching of universities, at least in Baghdad, until we find out what happened," Abed Dhiab al-Ujaili told parliament.

"We are not ready to lose more professors."

Some 100 employees and visitors to the ministry of higher education were snatched by men in military uniforms in a brazen kidnapping in broad daylight.

The kidnappers were described as driving government vehicles.

The minister added that it was not a sectarian attack, as people had been rounded up regardless of their creed, ethnicity or rank in the ministry.

"This is not only a criminal act, this is a terrorist act meant to terrorise people," he said.

"They are targeting higher education to empty it."

Posted by: drindl | November 14, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I know. "he/she" in the last sentance in deference to Sen. Clinton or the other lady who could run....what's her name.....Brittany Spears!

Posted by: bob | November 14, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Let the attack ads begin!

Lots of interests know that their bulls are going to get gored (no pun intended) by two Democrat controlled houses.

They have to be shaking in their boots about retooling their contributions to the blue side of the aisle in the prosepects of a Democrat President in 2008.

The last election did not end business as ususal. It was the second to the last round.

The last round will be vicious to the point of desparation.

I feel for whoever the Democrats run unless he is wearing teflon underwear.

Posted by: Bob | November 14, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse


I've got no problem with the GOP reaching out to minorities, but the effort is so obviously an exercise in pandering. They're not going to support ANY specific legislation that is favored by the majority of hispanics or blacks but opposed by mainstream Republicans. Until that changes, the GOP effort is just window dressing, "image" as you say. People look for substance now, modern technology allows for even the most disenfranchised voters to organize and rally around single issues. Witness the Hispanic demonstrations this summer. The GOP still thinks they can throw them a bone or appeal to "values", but what good is the "gay marriage" issue to someone who's just trying to keep their family fed, clothed and educated?

Posted by: BlueDog | November 14, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The reason the Republicans are making some outreach efforts to African Americans is that adding even a very small share of their vote will seriously hurt the Democrats. They thought they had an opportunity among socially conservative, religious African Americans. African-Americans have the highest percentage of regular churchgoers compared to other ethnic groups. Between gay marriage and faith based programs, they were looking to make inroads among African Americans. They did, in fact, succeed in gaining support from some high profile African American pastors. The other reason they made the outreach is to soften the GOP image with suburban moms. As for Hispanics, they are the fastest growing group in the country. As the population becomes more Hispanic, the Republicans cannot afford to cede them to the Democrats. Again, social issues are the key. There are a lot of socially conservative Hispanics. However, the xenophobia among the Republican base, especially in the West and South, makes it a tough sell.

Posted by: JimD in FL | November 14, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

More on State Legislatures

According to the rules of the Montana House, ties in the last session required a new draft.

(2) (a) Each standing committee must be composed of an equal number of members of each political
(b) There will be an equal number of committees chaired by the members of each political party.
(c) There must be two vice chairmen for each committee, one from each political party.
(d) The Democrats will chair the following standing committees: Appropriations; Business and Labor;
Education; Ethics; Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; Human Services; Rules; and State Administration.
(e) The Republicans will chair the following standing committees: Agriculture; Federal Relations,
Energy, and Telecommunications; Judiciary; Legislative Administration; Local Government; Natural
Resources; Taxation; and Transportation.
(f) The House Democratic Leader, in consultation with the Speaker, shall appoint the Democratic
committee chairmen and vice chairmen, and the House Republican Leader, in consultation with the
Speaker, shall appoint the Republican committee chairmen and vice chairmen. The authority to appoint
a chairman or vice chairman carries with it the power to remove that chairman or vice chairman from a

Same applies to the MT Senate
S30-10. Committee appointments. (1) The Senate shall elect a Committee on Committees
consisting of six members. If the Senate is evenly divided between parties, the committee shall consist of
six Senators, three from each party.

However, some interesting developments have one GOP Senator switching parties to give Dems control and a tie in MT-58 (recount ongoing) could mean the governor will appoint a winner.

The state house independent votes will R's on most major issues but not necessarily on control. This article illustrates the sitaution nicely.

Apparently, Oklahoma's Senate will stay in Democratic control
but unsure yet as to what rules govern this.

Pennsylvania State House control appears to be down to one race (PA-156) in central PA, pending recounts.

Posted by: RMill | November 14, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Joe's right. As a Cuban-American, Martinez does not have broad appeal to Hispanic voters. He also carries baggage from the Schiavo matter. Having said that, Martinez is a nice guy and does have some moderate views on immigration reform, energy policy and education that give him crossover credibility to moderates and independents. It will be interesting to see if he morphs into a Bush henchman at the RNC. He certainly owes the Bush family for his recent political success. Unfortunately, Martinez' political career is limited by his Cuban birth. My bet is that he will try to 'set the table' for Jeb Bush's next political move for '08, whatever that may be.

Posted by: lkdirksen | November 14, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Is this a preliminary step to Jeb, '08?

Posted by: Steve | November 14, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Joe's comments about Martinez. If I were a Repub, I would say he is a bad pick for hispanic outreach.

As a Texan and Mexican-American living in South Florida, I can attest to the non-existent appeal Martinez has for non-cuban hispanics. If the RNC really wanted to court hispanics, they need to court the right hispanic group, Mexican-Americans in the West and Southwest (these are the ones who voted for Bush). For example, Henry Bonilla would be a perfect fit. But he still has a runoff to lose.

Also, the Repub hold on the Cuban vote is starting to loosen. I've met many young Cuban Dems. Castro will soon be dead and that is the primary reason they vote Repub.

But since I am not a Repub, Martinez is an excellent choice. hehe

Posted by: David | November 14, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

State Legislatures Report

A good turnout for the Dems again!

Preior to the midterm election, it was evenly balanced as far as control of state houses.

Dems held 22 State Houses and 24 State Senates. Reps held 26 State Houses and 24 State Senates.

MT State House was tied as was the IA State Senate.

Dems held complete control of both legislative bodies in 19 state and the Reps held 20 and they split contorl in 10.

NE is a non-partisan, unicameral body.

After the election:

Dems now control 28 State Houses and 27 State Senates.

Reps control 20 State Houses and 20 State Senates.

PA House is tied as are the MT and OK State Senates.

Dems exert complete control in 23 states, Reps in 15 and share control in 11 states.

The Pickups:

Dems retake the State House in-

They also got enough votes to tie in the PA House where there is 1 IND who will decide control. Also, in the MT House, there is one IND who can tie things up in a 49D-50R split.

In ME, it was 74D-73R-3I, where IND held sway for control. Gains there have widened Dem control to 89D-60R-2I.

Dems took State Senate chambers in-

One bright spot for Reps-
Winning two Senate seats in OK and MT now throw both into a tie after being in the minority.

Both states have Democratic Governors, however.

Posted by: RMill | November 14, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I have to say if I was a citizen of Florida I would be pissed off right now. Martinez is an elected senator, he already has a job. Martinez better be careful cause if I were running against him the first commercial I ran would be about how Martinez bailed on his duty to go and raise money for the GOP.
Way to shore up your bi-partisan street cred there Mel.

Posted by: Andy R | November 14, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Chris, why don't you post something on what happened with state legislatures in this past election? We'd all like to know whether (and how many) state legislatures flipped or significantly changed their make-up. Did Democrats do well at the local level or was it only a national thing? These are important issues because the state legislatures are where the grass-roots really goes on and where many ideas (good and bad) start.

Posted by: Ryan | November 14, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Martinez won't be on the ballotin 08, Richardson will.

This may be the best indication that the GOP most fears Richardson as a presidential candidate (disciplined or not).

Posted by: RMill | November 14, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I think the GOP didn't go with Steele for a number of reasons. The fact that he was running as an anti-GOP candidate who was ashamed to be labeled a Republican may have played relatively well in MD, but not nationally, particularly in some of the redder states. And if you look at the role of the RNC chair and the fundraising respnosibilities, you need someone who won't alienate the base. Despite Ken Melman's pipedream, I also think that Republicans view the African American vote as a lost cause and are more interested in shoring up their Latino base. The shrewd Martinez choice helps them with the largest and fastest growing minority.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Chris, do you want to talk about this? Do you need a hug, or a shoulder to gently weep upon? Don't you worry though, Michael Steele is someday going to win. He just has to, darn it!

He just....has to.......

Posted by: adam | November 14, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Martinez represents the same old GOPher strategy Steele did, pick a minority as a front man to garner minority votes. Doesn't work very well since voters are not as stupid or gullible as the GOP thinks. I wonder who they would select if registered Republicans were allows to vote on a field of candidates. Bet it would be an old white male. Grand Old Panderers.

Posted by: BlueDog | November 14, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Chris -

1. Martinez may not be as attractive to hispanic voters as you think. Martinez is part of the hard-core Cuban community that dominates Florida politics whereas the majority of hispanic immigrants are Mexican in background.

2. Have you seen the postings on Free Republic and Red State? They are not very happy at with this.

3. As the people from the above sites pointed out, Martinez barely won an open senate seat the same year Bush took Florida by 5 points.

4. His role in Terri Schiavo cannot be emphasized enough.

Speaking as a democrat, I was rather surprised that they did not tap Michael Steele. Sure he is empty and shallow but he was an effective campaigner. Martinez on the other is a career politician and does he even have appeal beyond the Cuban community in Florida? I don't know.

Posted by: Joe | November 14, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

It will take more than a token face heading the RNC to help with the Hispanic vote. Somehow Republicans must restrain their xenophobic wing. Their corporatist wing is in conflict with the xenophobic wing.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | November 14, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"from the fundraising hotbed of Florida"

Wait, Mel Martinez grew up in Mark Foley's house?

Posted by: Venicemenace | November 14, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, Mehlman didn't exactly bring out the gay vote for the GOP, why should they expect Martinez to do any better for them with the Hispanic vote?

Note to GOP overlords: hiring a minority frontman to convince a minority group that you are on their side, while simultaneously promoting policies that oppress that minority group, is not a strategy for success.

Posted by: Venicemenace | November 14, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Umm, I already wrote this post on the Guiliani thread, folks... hey Chris, you sleeping late, or what?

Meanwhile back at the GOP corruption factory:

'West Virginia state mining officials concluded Thursday that a fatal mine accident in January could have been prevented, placing blame on a huge coal company run by one of the country's biggest Republican donors, Don Blankenship.

Blankenship is chairman, CEO and president of the Massey Energy Company of Richmond, Va.

He has spent millions of dollars to promote Republican candidates and causes in this year's election.

The report on the fatal mine accident cites "168 notices of violations" in Massey Energy's Aracoma Mine that led to the deaths of two miners, according to the investigation issued by the West Virginia Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training.

Posted by: drindl | November 14, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

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