At Saturday’s state GOP convention in Athens, Deal cited a “shocking’ statistic about Georgia public schools. Fifty-six percent of the students are nonwhite — minorities, in a word.
The governor told his fellow party members: “If you want to know what the future electorate of Georgia looks like, look at those who are in the schools right now.” He spelled it out: “If we do not recognize that and if we don’t reach out to them, then shame on us.”
The Georgia delegates got the same message from Karl Rove, the well-known former adviser to President George W. Bush. Rove said: “We’ve got to get candidates who represent the diversity of our country.” In Texas, Republicans win “40 percent of the Latino vote on average,” he said, and, “We go out of our way to recruit qualified Latino candidates and run them for office.” In 1998, when George W. Bush won another term as governor, “and we won every one of 28 elected offices in Texas, white men were a minority of our ticket,” Rove said. “And there’s a lesson in there for us.”
Deal’s straight talk to Georgia Republicans echoed what Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a presidential candidate in waiting, said a week ago. At the GOP Lincoln Day dinner in Iowa, he said, “We need to attract the Latino vote. We need to attract the African-American vote. It is somewhat of a gateway issue.” Of illegal immigrants, he said, “Their kids will be voting and if their kids think we’re hostile, they’re never going to vote for us.” Paul boiled it down in these words: “We need to reach out. We’re going to have to do something.”
Evidently, Gov. Deal feels that Georgia Republicans should do something. The question is: What should they do? Is there going to be an organized effort in coordination with the national GOP outreach?
It may be a tough assignment. For one thing, will Hispanic voters who came here legally be influenced by the debate over how to deal with illegal immigrants and specifically, the position of many conservatives and Republicans that no “amnesty” should be granted in the form of the proposed new immigration law?
Deal’s challenge fits with the plans of the Republican National Committee to woo minorities. Chairman Reince Priebus said in March that his group plans to spend $10 million this year reaching out to minority voters by sending hundreds of RNC employees into “Hispanic and African-American, Asian communities, talking about our party.”
One hurdle for Deal and other Georgia GOP leaders is the disaffected tea party and other conservatives like those who appeared at the state convention Friday to denounce “Republicans in name only.”
Let’s see what comes of Gov. Deal’s challenge to Georgia Republicans to reach out to minorities.