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Election 2008: 'Los Republicanos'

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Leslie Sanchez
Republican Strategist, Ex-Bush Advisor, CNN Contributor
Thursday, September 4, 2008; 4:00 PM

Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, author of " Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other" was online Thursday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. ET to discuss Republicans efforts to sway Hispanic voters in the 2008 election.

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The transcript follows.

Sanchez is founder and CEO of Impacto Group LLC, a communications and market research firm that specializes in defining social and economic trends affecting women and the emerging U.S. Hispanic community.

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Leslie Sanchez: Hi, it's Leslie Sanchez. I recently wrote a book called Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other, which will be out in paperback this month.

Currently, I'm in NY talking politics on CNN. I look forward to your questions.

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Rockville, Md.: Leslie, I am a Hispanic professional woman who is squarely middle class with a stay-at-home husband and two young children. Why should I vote Republican? How is it in my interests to do so? I am interested in your response.

Leslie Sanchez: Hi and thank you for your question. When it comes to selecting a political party, it helps to know more about what you value and what you believe will most benefit your growing family.

As Republicans, the shortest way I can explain it is we believe in the politics of aspiration versus the politics of dependency. So why vote Republican? Think of the following: you don't want your taxes raised; you want leadership in the country that puts this country first; you care about values of small government and limitation. Let's face it, John McCain has dedicated his life to putting country first.

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Lyme, Conn.: What are your views on how we should handle immigration? I ask honestly because I do not know your position and I also know there is no unified Republican Party position on immigration. I will mention that I see, from an economic perspective, that there are forecasts that will be lacking somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million employees in 2050. That means both that more people are retiring faster than the new generation can replace them, and that we will need the taxes of about 50 million more employees to shore up our social services, such as health care, social security, and -- according to the former comptroller general -- the entire federal budget. Thus, I see our country with an anti-immigration mindset at a time when we should be considering how to both attract skilled labor to migrate to the U.S., as well as the reality that the most productive generation usually are second-generation Americans. Any thoughts on all this?

Leslie Sanchez: Good question. Bottom line is the current system is not working and it's imperative both parties make it a priority to solve both the border enforcement and labor shortage issues. Fundamentally, I agree with Sen. McCain that we need to secure any compromised port of entry (air, land, and sea). We also need to find a dignified and humane way to account for the millions of undocumented individuals in this country. We need to know - who are they? Why are they here? What is their intent? Do they pay taxes?

Our resources should be dedicated to locating the criminal aliens and fighting for legal immigration.

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Rockville, Md.: Why are you a Republican?

Leslie Sanchez: No short answer here. My parents were Democrats. It was all we knew, really. As I learned more about each of the parties, and more so their candidates (I'm a Reagan Republican), I came to believe the strength of this country is built on achieving both economic and political freedom. To do so, I believe we must reduce the tax burden on families; empower small businesses to grow; strengthen our military and defense (I come from a long lineage of veterans); and limit the role of government so it works on behalf of its citizens, not against them.

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Seattle: I get why the GOP needs Hispanics, but why do Hispanics need the GOP? Traveling through the Mountain West and Southwest in October 2006, I was struck by how xenophobic the radio commercials were. In Arizona, saying you support "amnesty" now is like saying you support "socialism" was back in the 1950s.

Leslie Sanchez: Hispanics need choices. To vote as a bloc limits our political impact and the need for both parties to understand, court, and focus on our community.

You are correct about the xenophobic or harsh tone of the immigration debate. I was on talk radio promoting this book and individuals would call and ask if I was an illegal alien. That said, the GOP promotes legal immigration, and I do not believe the anti-Hispanic movement has a place in this party.

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Rockville, Md.: So how do you think Latinos -- and particularly Latino women -- will react to Gov. Palin?

Leslie Sanchez: In fairness, it's too early to say. Latinos tend to vote for candidates, not parties. Gov. Palin is still unknown. She has a compelling story that is relatable. She can build a connection with Latinas if she makes strong efforts to understand their needs and reach them.

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Austin, Texas: It is absolutely ridiculous to say that Hispanics and Republicans need each other. You are doing a disservice to Hispanics by supporting Republicans. The Republican platform is 100 percent against the interests of Hispanics; review McCain's stance on immigration and deportation, for example, and find out how many Hispanics (and minorities) were among the delegates of the convention. Less than 250 versus thousands and thousands of whites -- and many more males than females. ... Is this what you advocate for those of your background and race?

Leslie Sanchez: Read my book

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New York: In your photo, you appear extremely light-skinned. Are you mixed Anglo-Hispanic?

Leslie Sanchez: I often get asked if I was born in the U.S. I'm a third generation Mexican American.

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Takoma, Md.: Republican by far are very anti-immigrant. In Maryland they have tried to pass 25 anti-immigrant bills. Around the country 2,200 local laws have been passed, mostly by local and state Republican policy-makers. How can you ask me to support the Republican Party?

Leslie Sanchez: I will not defend the harsh, seemingly anti-immigrant, tone of some immigration legislation. If this is your top issue, then I would encourage you to look at Sen. McCain's record and leadership on immigration reform. He's taken on his own party and renewed his commitment to solve this crisis.

This contradicts both some local Republican initiatives - and Democratic attempts to do nothing except use this as a wedge issue to mobilize Latinos against the GOP.

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Washington: Perhaps you can explain that Hispanic is not a race, but an ethnicity or culture. Hispanics are both white and black, and often of mixed race (anglo and indigenous).

Leslie Sanchez: You are correct.

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Seattle: It's easy to say that you should vote for McCain, but when framed against "voting for Republican nominee, McCain," doesn't that argument run into the vitriol the Republicans have unleashed against Hispanics -- which made McCain disavow his own immigration reform bill?

Leslie Sanchez: Sen. McCain's made a commitment to work toward a solution that reforms the broken immigration system. He's asked people to trust his character and leadership on this issue. He also has a 25-year legacy reaching out to the Hispanic community. He, like Reagan, understands the need to be an inclusive party built on a framework of shared values: faith, family, commitment to country, etc.

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Re: Legal Immigration: Have you met many people who are against legal immigration of any sort, or people who support illegal immigration without consequences? Shouldn't the terms of the debate be along the lines of what "legal" and "illegal" mean, what to do with illegal immigrants who are embedded in communities now and how to move forward with them?

Leslie Sanchez: You are correct. The debate needs to be clarified.

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Washington: I'm curious, is the only thing that Republicans know to say about Democrats is that they will raise taxes? That seems to be all they have to offer, lower taxes. But how do you plan to pay for this endless war that is costing this country billions if dollars? Who should pay for Bush's experiment in democracy?

Leslie Sanchez: No, it's not the only thing we know how to say. But sometime I wonder if raising taxes is the only thing Democrats know how to do.

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: I see why the Republican Party would need the Hispanics (either to bolster their ranks or to have a convenient one-size-fits-all "threat" to blame all social woes on), but I am at a loss to understand why the Hispanic segment of the society would need the party of California Prop. 187.

Leslie Sanchez: I think it is important to understand there are legitimate concerns on both sides of this discussion. Even many legal immigrants are upset that many illegal immigrants take advantage of a social welfare network--hospitals, schools, etc., that they do not contribute to with their tax dollars.

It is equally true that the Prop. 187 came across as intolerant and mean spirited. I wrote about the immigration challenge in this piece: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070722/news_lz1e22sanchez.html

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Virginia Beach, Va.: You are doing good, Leslie Sanchez -- go on! I will become an American in three weeks, and I want to vote Republican! It's a matter of values -- deep values!

Leslie Sanchez: Keep the faith.

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Philadelphia: What is your position on affirmative action, and what do you think of the irony that the political party that in general opposes affirmative action just used affirmative action in its nomination for the nations' second-highest position?

Leslie Sanchez: Gov. Palin was selected by her accomplishments as governor of Alaska and what she brings to the ticket. It was a bold move for McCain to choose an unknown. Yet, that's not affirmative action.

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Re: Vote for Candidate not Party: I can understand that argument in the context of president -- they have strong power to shape their own agenda and make their own priorities. However, in the case of down-ticket races, like Senate and House races, the party leadership has a stronger influence and does more to shape the agenda. In that case, the Republican leadership has been "scoring points" by trashing Hispanics. How do you respond?

Leslie Sanchez: The GOP candidates that made immigrant bashing the focal point of their activities LOST - as well they should. The GOP is the party of freedom and openness. I believe, and I feel Sen. McCain believes, that America should welcome with open arms as many immigrants who want to come here provided they do so in a systemic and lawful manner.

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Leslie Sanchez: Thank you for your questions. I wish I had more time to join you. Goodbye

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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