Republican and Democratic leaders agree that Republicans need to moderate their stance on illegal immigration to appeal to a broader segment of voters in the future.
Penn State College Republicans Chairman Jordan Harris said there’s no reason why the Hispanic voting bloc, which is “very religious” with a conservative lean, shouldn’t be a Republican voting bloc. The problem is the party hasn’t done a good job of communicating its message to Hispanics and young people, he said.
The Republican Party still reflects American values, but it needs to tailor its message better, he said.
“The principles that the Republican Party has are still the principles that the American electorate as a whole embodies, but the American electorate doesn’t see the Republican Party that way,” Harris (senior-history and economics) said.
In this year’s presidential election, 71 percent of Hispanic voters backed President Barack Obama, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Twenty-seven percent of Hispanic voters supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to the center.
The Republican Party should support the DREAM Act, Harris said. The act would provide a path to citizenship for young, illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. The DREAM Act is a “sensible measure” Harris has supported for a long time, he said.
Penn State College Democrats President Drew McGehrin said Republicans need to re-examine their stances and alter them to match the views of the American electorate. That’s especially true for social issues and immigration, McGehrin (senior-history and religious studies) said.
“The election shows that the American public has spoken, and the overwhelming majority have progressed and moved forward from many of the stances Republicans have taken,” McGehrin said. “The opinions have changed, and they have to progress with them.”
The Republican approach to immigration impacted the outcome of the election, especially in states like Florida, McGehrin said.
Obama won 60 percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote compared to Romney’s 39 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In the 2008 election, Obama won 57 percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote compared to Republican candidate John McCain’s 42 percent, according to the center.
McGehrin said Republicans recognize the need to re-evaluate their stances, and they have the ability to garner support from minorities if they do.
Deb Flavin, Centre County Republican Party secretary and executive director, said she believes the Republican Party needs to stick to its principles. The party should communicate its message more clearly in a way everybody understands.
To her, there’s no such thing as special interest issues.
“The message should be an American message,” Flavin said. “We have a great message, and we have the right message.”
Flavin said at the Centre County level, the party is going to convey the Republican ideals of lower taxes, smaller government, free markets and individual responsibility with as many voters as possible.
The Republican Party and right-leaning establishments have to make college campuses a focal point and encourage intellectual discourse among college students, Harris said.
The Penn State College Republicans targeted 100 percent of students on campus, not any one particular group, he said. That’s exactly what the Republican Party has to do, Harris said.
The party can sometimes be too exclusive, and it needs to expand American ideals to everyone, Harris said.
“It’s been exclusive to a certain niche of the American electorate, and that niche is going away,” he said. “It should never have been that exclusive in the first place.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.