DENVER — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus met with Hispanic leaders here Monday afternoon and told reporters that the GOP needs to do a better job of talking to minority and other voters on a year-round basis.
The visit comes a few months after President Barack Obama trounced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with Latino voters, winning that demographic group by a margin of three-to-one nationally and in Colorado.
Preibus’s three-state western tour is part of a larger project to meet with local party members and volunteers and develop a strategy that will help the GOP be more competitive in 2014 and beyond.
“Showing up four months, five months ahead of time isn’t going to cut it,” Priebus told reporters after the event, which was closed to the public. “We have to build authentic, real relationships, and that takes time.”
Priebus praised Republican U.S. senators who had worked with Democrats on an immigration bill that would give legal status to most of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants after steps are taken to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
Stopping short of endorsing the proposal outlined by Senate leaders, Priebus told reporters that Republicans need to talk about the immigration issue, and others, in a more empathetic, humane way, without abandoning conservative principles.
“I think people trust us when it comes to the economy, when it comes to the problems when it comes to the deficit,” he said. “People trusted Romney on that more than Obama. But when it came to issues of the heart, who cares about you, Mitt Romney didn’t do very well with that.
“We have to do a better job of communicating who we are. We all have an immigrant story to tell. At some point, you or your parents, or grandparents, came to this country seeking freedom and opportunity. I think we have to talk about that message that brings us all together as Americans, not as Hispanics.”
Preibus’s Denver visit came just hours after three Republican state senators joined Democrats in support of a measure to lower college tuition for undocumented students.
He dismissed the idea that the GOP yes votes signaled a shift or a recognition of the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote.
“Look at [Gov.] Rick Perry in Texas,” Preibus said. “He’s been having that conversation for years. So I don’t think it’s anything new for our party.
“Look at Bush and McCain back in 2007. They were spearheading immigration reform, at their own political peril.”