Republicans are upset with NBC after the last GOP debate in Boulder, Colorado, which was hosted by CNBC. In a move that may ultimately hurt Republican presidential candidates more than the network, the party canceled future participation in NBC and NBC affiliate-hosted debates. As a result, a debate that was supposed to be hosted by Telemundo on Feb. 26 has now been canceled, since the Spanish-language network is owned by NBC Universal. Not all Hispanic Americans are Spanish-speakers, of course, but the RNC should reinstate the GOP debate on Telemundo, since it would be the perfect forum for Hispanic voters to learn what Republican candidates have — and don't have — to offer them.
The Republican National Committee severed ties with NBC after the last GOP debate because the RNC felt that the debate questions were "petty and mean-spirited" and "inaccurate and offensive." In turn, CNBC defended itself, saying, “People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”
Jeb Bush is the only Republican candidate pushing to reinstate the Telemundo debate — a fact that is both surprising and disappointing. Whatever their qualms with NBC, it's foolish of the Republican candidates to spurn the opportunity to appear on Telemundo. It could heal the bad blood GOP candidates have created with Latino voters on immigration, health care, and other issues that matter to them.
Things are already rocky between Hispanic voters and Republicans. Almost all the presidential candidates want to limit immigration and cast out undocumented immigrants, a large faction of which is Hispanic. In fact, only Bush is in favor of amnesty among the candidates. Donald Trump notoriously wants to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. Carly Fiorina, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Gov. Scott Walker all oppose amnesty. Gov. Chris Christie and Ben Carson want to punish businesses that hire undocumented workers. Sen. Ted Cruz opposed legislation that would shield undocumented children from deportation.
Then, of course, there's the terrible publicity Trump has brought to the party with his outrageous, racist remarks about Mexican immigrants. His comments earned him a favorability rating of -51 among Latinos, according to a Gallup poll. This is extremely low, compared to Fiorina's score of +3, Bush's of +11, and Hillary Clinton's of +40. The same day of the GOP debate in Boulder, Rosario Marin, treasurer of the United States under George W. Bush, spoke during a gathering of conservative Latinos and warned that Hispanic Republican voters would not support any candidate who insulted them. “Heed our warning. Don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election. You are not with us now, we will not be with you then."
She warned other candidates not to follow Trump's example. "If you do, we’ll eventually single you out as well," Marin said.
A Pew Research Poll reports that Latino Americans are concerned with education, job creation, and health care as much as immigration. The RNC should be actively focusing on reaching Hispanic Americans by explaining how Republican candidates plan to address these issues. A debate on Telemundo would be an excellent way to reach this specific audience.
The Republican nominee for the presidency will need every Hispanic vote he or she can get. John McCain won 31 percent of Hispanic votes in 2008. In 2012, Mitt Romney won even less, at 27 percent. Romney himself said that the 2012 presidential election might have gone to the GOP if he had been able to woo Latinos.
In 2016, 39.8 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the presidential election. By 2060, it's projected that they will make up 29 percent of the populace. Latinos are already the largest minority group in this country. It's long past the time for Republicans to be courting their vote. A debate aired on Telemundo would be the ideal way to explain to Latinos that they are not only respected and valued as much as any other Americans, but also that they are also a rapidly growing political force that could make or break future leaders.