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DNC Chairman Criticized Bush, GOP

August 9, 2002

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LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe says the campaign by President Bush and fellow Republicans to court Hispanic voters ``is a joke.″ Republicans say they will get the last laugh.

Opening the Democratic National Committee’s three-day summer meeting, McAuliffe said, ``The president invites mariachi bands to the White House, and that’s supposed to be some sort of outreach effort,″

``I think the Republican outreach is a joke,″ he said.

Republican Party spokeswoman Sharon Castillo countered that polls show a strong majority of Hispanics approve of Bush’s job performance.

``They trust him when it comes to the war on terrorism. They trust him ... to bring the economy around. They trust him and agree with him on education and Social Security,″ she said.

``Mr. McAuliffe can call it what he wants, but the truth of the matter is that (Democrats’) own pollsters warn them time and time again that Republicans and President Bush made incredible inroads in the Hispanic community, and Democrats have no plan to counter that.″

Bush’s job approval was at 70 percent in May in a poll by Democratic pollster Sergio Bendixen. The poll was done for the New Democrat Network.

Bush earned just 35 percent of the Hispanic vote en route to his narrow 2000 victory while Democratic candidate Al Gore had 62 percent. Bush’s own advisers acknowledge he must improve his standing among Hispanics before his 2004 re-election bid.

With midterm elections three months away, both political parties are trying to build closer ties to the Hispanic community, the largest ethnic minority in the country. The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, estimates the number of Hispanic voters will climb from 5.9 million in 2000 to 7.8 million in 2004.

McAuliffe said Democrats are targeting 15 states and dozens of congressional districts with large Hispanic populations. He said millions of dollars _ McAuliffe would not specify how much _ will help identify Hispanic voters and pay for polling, advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in Hispanic communities.

McAuliffe said Republicans are doing the same things, but not as much as Democrats. He accused GOP leaders of relying on superficial efforts, such as photo opportunities with Hispanics and teaching Republican officials to speak Spanish.

``What good does that do? It allows you to speak in their native tongue as you speak out of both sides of your mouth,″ McAuliffe said.

Castillo, who said Republicans are matching Democratic grass-roots efforts, noted that Democrats give Spanish lessons to their leaders, too, ``and I commend them for that.″

___

Democratic pollsters told party leaders the political atmosphere is improving, in part because of the corporate accounting scandals.

A party poll circulated among DNC leaders Thursday says that Bush’s popularity has dropped from 72 percent in February to 58 percent now. Only 38 percent of those polled gave Bush a positive rating on addressing corporate accounting.

Voters favor Democrats in Congress over Republicans by 48 percent to 35 percent when the choices are cast in these terms: ``We need to elect more Republicans to Congress to help President Bush fight the war on terrorism, cut taxes and implement his programs″ versus ``We need to elect more Democrats to Congress to provide a check and balance to keep the Republicans in Congress from going too far in favoring the big special interests at the expense of working people.″

The poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang and the Mellman Group, found that 63 percent of likely voters believe GOP lawmakers care more about special interests than working families.

``The nation’s political climate has undergone substantial changes. Virtually all of these changes improve the Democrat’s prospects for success in this year’s midterm elections,″ reads a DNC memo prepared for the meeting.

Activists at the meeting said they hope the corporate scandals balance out Bush’s wartime popularity, a source of frustration as they plan for the midterm elections and the 2004 presidential race.

Linda Sanchez, a congressional candidate from California, said voters sometimes tell her ``Bush is good for our community.″ She said she convinces them otherwise when the conversation turns to domestic issues.

Dario Herrera, a congressional candidate from Nevada, predicted that domestic issues will prevail in November, but when it comes to the war, ``Everybody feels a duty to support their president.″

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