Media To The GOP: Canceling Telemundo Debate Problematic For Latino Outreach

Media figures are highlighting the “dire consequences” of the Republican National Committee's (RNC) decision to suspend its partnership with NBC and it's allied Spanish-language network Telemundo for a presidential debate in February 2016. They point out that the move to eliminate the only debate airing on a Spanish-speaking network could hurt the Republican Party's Latino outreach, and would contradict the 2013 GOP autopsy report's recommendations to invest resources in Hispanic media.

Republican National Committee Suspends Only GOP Debate To Be Co-Hosted By A Hispanic News Organization

Republican National Committee Suspends GOP Debate Co-Hosted By NBC And Telemundo. Politico reported on October 30 that the Republican National Committee suspended its partnership with NBC for a debate in February, which was “the only Republican primary debate set to be co-hosted by a Hispanic news organization” :

The RNC has suspended plans to partner with NBC News for a February debate, citing a “bad faith” performance by CNBC in Wednesday night's meeting of the candidates.

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The February forum -- scheduled for Feb. 26, at the University of Houston -- was the only Republican primary debate set to be co-hosted by a Hispanic news organization, with National Review as the conservative media partner. Priebus said a debate will still occur on that date, and National Review will still be a part of it, but he did not say whether another Spanish-language media organization will be involved. The relationship between the two organizations is not necessarily dead, and NBC News said in a statement they plan to work with the RNC to resolve their issues.

“This is a disappointing development. However, along with our debate partners at Telemundo, we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party,” NBC News said in a statement. [Politico, 10/30/15]

Media Highlight The “Dire Consequences” Of The RNC's Suspension Of The Only Debate Co-Hosted By Spanish-Speaking Network For Republicans

Huffington Post: “Reinstating The Telemundo Debate Would Be A Wise Move” For GOP To “Make Inroads With Latino Voters.” In a November 2 column, The Huffington Post's Igor Bobic wrote that the RNC's suspension of the NBC/Telemundo debate is “at odds” with the RNC's “autopsy.” Bobic pointed out that “A debate on Spanish-language TV not only makes sense, it was recommended by the party itself in the wake of the 2012 election” :

In the wake of the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee penned a 100-page “autopsy” report that included, among a bevy of other recommendations, how to repair the party's standing with Latino voters that it badly failed to win over with former presidential nominee Mitt Romney. It's now looking like that report might need an autopsy as well.

On Sunday, representatives of nearly every 2016 Republican presidential campaign met in Virginia to discuss changes to the debate process after frustrations boiled over with the RNC over last week's primary debate hosted by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado. The meeting followed news that the RNC suspended its partnership with NBC News due to grievances with CNBC moderators.

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Telemundo, which is owned by NBCUniversal, is the second-largest Spanish-language network.

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Reinstating the Telemundo debate would be a wise move for a party looking to make inroads with Latino voters, a crucial and growing demographic that swung heavily toward Barack Obama in 2012. A debate on Spanish-language TV not only makes sense, it was recommended by the party itself in the wake of the 2012 election.

From the RNC's “Growth and Opportunity” autopsy report:

“The RNC must put significant effort and resources into reaching out to Hispanic media and news outlets. This needs to be a high-level presence on all Latino media. The RNC must rebuild an updated, working list of Hispanic surrogates, not just RNC staff, to help carry and sell our message to the Hispanic community. ”

Of course, the RNC has other ways of engaging with Spanish-language outlets on a daily basis. But if the party does decide to freeze out Telemundo, it would be akin to shooting oneself in the foot -- Republicans would lose a primetime opportunity to engage with Latino voters at a time when primary debates are setting records with tens of millions of new viewers. [Huffington Post, 11/2/15]

MSNBC: Suspension Of Telemundo Debate Comes “Two Years After” Vowing To Make Inroads With Latinos. MSNBC's Jane C. Timm pointed out that the Republican party's decision to cancel the “only scheduled debate on a Spanish-language network” comes “just two years after publicly vowing to make inroads with Latino voters and media” :

Just two years after publicly vowing to make inroads with Latino voters and media, the GOP's only scheduled debate on a Spanish-language network has been shelved - and that slot may end up going to Democrats instead.

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The suspension of the NBC News/Telemundo debate comes just three years after Republicans scored their lowest number of Latino votes in three presidential elections. In 2012, the nation's fastest-growing minority group favored President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney by a 71% to 27% margin. In its post-election autopsy, the RNC vowed better outreach and a stronger presence in Latino media as part of an overall strategy to draw more Latino voters to the party. Telemundo declined to comment for this story.

“The RNC must put significant effort and resources into reaching out to Hispanic media and news outlets. This needs to be a high-level presence on all Latino media,” the party wrote.

This year's Latino outreach likely hasn't gone as planned for the GOP, however, with Trump making illegal immigration - and at times a condemnation of immigrants - a centerpiece of his campaign. [MSNBC.com, 11/2/15]

Slate: Not Having A “Single Debate On Spanish-Speaking Media” Is “Not What Chairman Reince Priebus Hoped For” After 2012 Election Autopsy. On November 2, Slate's Jim Newell wrote that “the candidates have bullied the RNC into cancelling the party's one big night on Hispanic media,” noting that “If Trump gets his way ... the Republican Party will finish its presidential primary schedule without a single debate on Spanish-speaking media.” Newell stated “This is not what Chairman Reince Priebus hoped for when his RNC drafted its 'autopsy' of the 2012 election,” and called for increased efforts to court Hispanic media:

The view of the campaigns is that the Republican National Committee has failed in its mission to prevent moderators from asking them uncomfortable questions to which they may not have truthful answers. The candidates have thus decided to cut out the middleman, since it's their smiling, sweaty faces that have all the leverage. The RNC was not represented at the Sunday night meeting--code-named “family dinner,” no joke--even after it tried to mollify campaigns' outrage by suspending NBC News and Telemundo's sponsorship of a February debate.

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It's not a good sign for the RNC, or the eventual Republican nominee's chances next November, if Trump is effectively calling the shots. (Indeed, Trump is now talking about breaking from the collective entirely and negotiating debate details on his own.) If Trump gets his way NBC News and Telemundo will not be reinstated, and the Republican Party will finish its presidential primary schedule without a single debate on Spanish-speaking media. Telemundo, meanwhile, is reportedly in discussions with the Democratic National Committee about setting up a forum for its candidates instead. This means that Democrats, who already have a Univision-hosted debate scheduled, are poised to host two events on Hispanic media networks to the Republicans' zero.

This is not what Chairman Reince Priebus hoped for when his RNC drafted its “autopsy” of the 2012 election. “The RNC must put significant effort and resources into reaching out to Hispanic media and news outlets,” the 2013 report concluded. “This needs to be a high-level presence on all Latino media.” Well, now the candidates have bullied the RNC into cancelling the party's one big night on Hispanic media because its partner, NBC News, operates under the same parent company of CNBC, a channel that worships money but also asked a few mean questions. And Trump, whose “racially divisive” platform and rhetoric has commanded great audiences and catapulted him to the top of primary polls, appears to have little interest in renegotiating. [Slate, 11/2/15]

Latin Times: GOP “Turned Their Backs On” “Hundreds Of Thousands Of Spanish Language Viewers” By Suspending Telemundo Debate. In a November 2 article, The Latin Times columnist Cedar Attanasio pointed out that nowhere in the RNC letter announcing the suspension of the Telemundo debate there is a mention of “the hundreds of thousands of Spanish language viewers that the GOP just turned their backs on” and that “Latino viewers were not the impetus for the move, but losing them is a sure consequence” :

The Republican National Committee has cancelled their partnership with NBC, cancelling a February debate that was scheduled to be held on Telemundo. In a letter, RNC Chairman Reince Preibus billed the break as a reaction to the disastrous CNBC debate last week (viewers applauded when Ted Cruz called CNBC anchors' approach a " cage match ." Nowhere does the letter mention Telemundo or the hundreds of thousands of Spanish language viewers that the GOP just turned their backs on.

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Despite the calamitous Summer of Trump ("[Mexicans] are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime, and they're rapists") and strong warnings from conservative Hispanics, the Grand Old Party is digging itself into an even deeper hole. Latino viewers were not the impetus for the move, but losing them is a sure consequence.

The letter from the RNC doesn't do anything to stem this damage. The National Review's participation on a panel gets a mention, but Spanish-language and Latino viewers to not. The letter even goes out of it's way to defend Donald Trump, it does not name the candidate. [The Latin Times, 11/2/15]

ThinkProgress: Scrapping Telemundo Debate “May Have Dire Consequences” On GOP's Attempts “To Make Inroads” With Latinos Following The GOP Autopsy. According to ThinkProgress, the Republican Party's decision to shut Telemundo out of the debate circuit “may have dire consequences for a party that has been trying to make inroads” with the Latino vote since the RNC's 2012 autopsy report recommended that Republicans "'invest financial resources in Hispanic media'" and “have a high-level presence on all Latino media'” :

Shutting out Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language network, may have dire consequences for a party that has been trying to make inroads since Mitt Romney won just 23 percent of Latino voters in the 2012 primary election. Soon after Romney's loss, the RNC released a now-infamous 2012 GOP autopsy report calling on Republicans to embrace Latino voters, a fast-growing and necessary-to-win demographic.

In fact, the autopsy report specifically recommended that the GOP “invest financial resources in Hispanic media” because "[i]f we are going to attract these groups to our Party and candidates, our budgets, and expenses need to reflect this importance." The autopsy report also said that GOP surrogates should have “a high-level presence on all Latino media” in order to “help carry and sell our message to the Hispanic community.”

Republican presidential candidates may need anywhere between 42 and 47 percent of the Latino vote, especially in key battleground states like Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado, the polling group Latino Decisions found. [ThinkProgress, 11/2/15]

Talking Points Memo: Suspending Relationship With Telemundo Despite Findings Of GOP Autopsy Report “Could Backfire On Republicans.” On November 3 Talking Points Memo's Tierney Sneed pointed out that despite the RNC “in its post-election autopsy report” “urg[ing] the party to broaden its reach, particularly when it comes to 'reaching out to Hispanic media news and outlets,'” the only debate co-hosted by a Hispanic network is “in jeopardy,” which “could backfire on Republicans” :

After the 2012 election, some commentators raised concerns of a conservative media bubble that has shielded Republican voters from facing the reality of their electoral landscape. The Republican National Committee itself -- in its post-election autopsy report -- urged the party to broaden its reach, particularly when it comes to “reaching out to Hispanic media and news outlets.”

But the single debate the RNC had planned with a Spanish-speaking network remains in jeopardy now that the party has suspended its relationship with NBC -- which owns Telemundo -- over last week's CNBC debate. At a meeting Sunday among campaign representatives to discuss debate demands, a Trump staffer vowed the billionaire would boycott the Telemundo debate, while former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) is publicly calling for it to be reinstated.

“Where there is 50 plus million Latinos in this country, it would be devastating if the Republican debate circuit does not include a major Spanish speaking platform to reach that electorate,” Luis Alvarado, a Republican strategist, told TPM. [Talking Points Memo, 11/3/15]

Bustle's Liz Posner: “RNC Should Reinstate” Debate On Telemundo. On November 2, Bustle's political columnist Liz Posner argued that “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.” Posner also noted that “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 ... It's long past the time for Republicans to be courting their vote” :

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.

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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. [Bustle.com, 11/2/15]