In what he dubbed a “pretty historic” moment, the chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus addressed an audience of Latino public officials on Saturday.
The GOP has a lot of work to do with Latino communities, Priebus admitted at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ annual convention at Chicago.
“I’ll be honest here. In the past two years, we've done a pretty lousy job of connecting in the Latino community,” Priebus said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We've missed out on opportunities to build better relationships. But that’s going to change. We want to be a party that is more welcoming, more inclusive, more open."
“I didn't come here to convert you,” he added. “I hope that it’s clear that we want to earn your trust and your vote.”
The chairman reaffirmed his hope for “comprehensive” immigration reform—the key selling point the party has offered to minorities in its outreach—but shied away from addressing specifics of the bill that passed the Senate last week. House Republicans have promised to scuttle the bill unless it morphs in the House to earn the support of a majority of Republican votes.
Preibus’ speech is the latest in the GOP’s $10-million minority outreach tour, following the huge numbers of minorities that helped to reelect Obama. He's touted his party's need and desire to change its rhetoric without specifying policy changes.
“It’s not necessarily what you say, it’s how you say it,” Priebus said on Morning Joe in late March. “If you go around saying biologically stupid things, and you poison the well, and you create a caricature, or at least you allow a caricature to become reality, I think it hurts your ability to win an election.”
Others think the GOP needs to work on a lot more than branding and spin. Former RNC chair, Michael Steele, threw barbs at his successor in March for talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
“How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be,” Steele said. “You've got to reconcile how people feel about your policies, not just the fact that you’re going to show up. You can show up any time. It’s what you say and what you do when you get there that matters most to people.”
For more on the remaking of the GOP, watch Priebus on Morning Joe below.