Some Grassroots Latino Republicans Worry About Party Message
Las Vegas Republican Robert Zavala asks a question to the candidates at the Oct. 18 Western Republican CNN debate.
October 21, 2011

LAS VEGAS -- At a regional Republican conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, some Latino Republican activists voiced frustration with their party. They said Republicans are failing to provide an effective message to Latino voters.

When the Republican presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening for the Western Republican CNN debate, local businessman, Robert Zavala, was allowed to ask a question from the audience.

He asked the candidates, “We have 50 million Latinos and not all of us are illegal. What is the message from you guys to our Latino community?”

Two days later, he said he's still waiting for a response.

“I believe my question wasn't answered,” said Zavala during an interview at the Western Republican Leadership Conference at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino on Thursday. “They bounced back to illegal immigration, anchor babies.”

After a panel on Latino Conservatism on the third day of the regional Republican conference, Zavala and other local grassroots activists made their frustrations known.

“To win against Obama, you have to be honest and know that he has the Latino vote,” Zavala said. “How are we as Republicans going to get the Latino vote? Nobody is mentioning it.”

In fact, some Republicans are worried that the kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric heard during the most recent Republican debate will alienate Hispanic voters.

“That is not the message that will get you votes, that is the message that will turn voters away,” said Tibi Ellis, a local Latina conservative activist.

Strategists at the same conference said the Republican presidential candidate must get at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the White House in 2012. In 2008, President Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote.