Republicans who have warned for years that their party needs to do a better job reaching out to Hispanic voters are finding a lot to smile about this month: according to the latest Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics is at 50 percent, eight points lower than it was in late October, after the government shutdown. A recent poll of Hispanic voters in Colorado showing a modest decline in opinion on the Affordable Care Act has Republicans hoping they can exploit Healthcare.gov’s botched rollout to their advantage with Hispanic millennials. In Texas, conservatives are trying to reach Latino voters with an appeal rooted in the party’s anti-abortion stance. Chris Christie’s strong showing in his reelection campaign last week is reminding them that Latino voters can be won.
Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Christie won 51 percent of Hispanic voters in a campaign where he was already outperforming his Democratic opponent among almost every demographic, even winning 32 percent of Democrats. It wasn’t for nothing: Christie spent over a million dollars on TV ads, invested in Spanish-language radio and direct mail, and softened his stance on allowing in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants just before the election. Last month, the Republican National Committee announced they, too, would be building outreach teams in 18 states that could help warm voters to a candidate like Christie in 2016.
The only problem is that Christie would first have to get past a primary. And conservatives have already declared his centrism on some of the same issues that would appeal to Hispanic voters to be intolerable.
That gets to another hurdle Republicans face in trying to reach Hispanic voters in 2016—there will be no way to silence GOP voices that completely oppose the stances the party must take in order to draw in Hispanic voters. Eighty percent of Hispanic voters say undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the country if they haven’t broken any laws, but that won’t deter presidential candidate Ted Cruz from decrying amnesty for illegal aliens, and his Tea Party fans from loudly agreeing. The same is true for health care. In September, 61 percent of Hispanic voters supported the Affordable Care Act. The most recent polling, which shows a minor decline in Hispanic voter perception of the law, sampled only 300 voters in Colorado. And Republicans haven’t offered a better option for the 10 million uninsured Hispanics who might benefit from the law.
“They don’t gain anything from pointing out that a website doesn’t work,” says Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions. “That’s not a policy advantage for them.”
In Texas, Republicans are hoping they can reach out to Hispanic voters by focusing on the party’s anti-abortion stance. But polling from Latino Decisions shows 38 percent of voters are pro-choice. And more than half say their religion does not influence their vote. Seventy-five percent say politics is about economic issues. Both demographics most affected by abortion policy—young uninsured people and women—are more likely to support Democrats.
“I’m deeply skeptical that a simple focus on divisive abortion politics will gain Latino and Latina voters. First of all, an outdated ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ approach is far too limited to convey the real opinions of our community,” says Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “[T]hey’re also deeply concerned about whether they’re going to be able to afford their yearly mammogram or whether they will have to choose between birth control or food that month.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice, says “Republicans can be competitive—they just can’t be competitive on the cheap. They’ll say its just a matter of tone but it’s not. It’s a matter of policy, outreach, respect and a matter of showing up. Not six months out from an election, saying, ‘Let’s hire mariachi bands for Latinos,’ which is the normal m.o. for most Republican candidates. That will not pass the laugh test.”
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President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.