This week, the Republican National Committee announced a schedule of 2016 presidential primary debates — and Spanish-language network Univision isn’t anywhere on it. That short-sighted decision displays a remarkable memory lapse. It’s almost as if the GOP has forgotten the 2012 election.
One of the key takeaways from President Obama’s reelection — which he rubbed in the faces of Republicans at the State of the Union address Tuesday night — was the abysmal lack of inroads the GOP made with Latinos. This time, Republicans should want to make progress, not alienate the most-watched Spanish-language network in the country.
To be fair, the RNC did agree to a debate cohosted in Miami by NBC and its Spanish-language network Telemundo. That the party chose Florida is no accident, either. The swing state will be a critical battleground, and its Latino demographics are changing.
But Univision reaches 96 percent of Hispanic households. More often than one would think, Univision ratings outperform those of the three major networks among the most coveted demographic groups — during prime time. Yes, Republicans routinely complain that they don’t get a fair shake from the network, which has an outsized focus on immigration coverage. But it’s natural that Univision would relentlessly focus on immigration, a personal issue that’s close to Hispanics’ American experience.
And here’s where Republicans miss an opportunity. If they are going to make any serious headway with Latinos in 2016, they’ll have to advance the immigration debate past the oversimplistic idea of enforcing the borders. Univision, along with other Spanish-language outlets, is the perfect place for GOP candidates — some of whom have nuanced and thoughtful approaches to immigration — to make their cases. Hispanics deserve to hear those positions directly from the candidates.
Shutting out Univision also means the GOP would miss an opportunity to energize an often-ignored but growing base emerging in pockets all over the country: Latino Republicans, not all of whom subscribe to the Ted Cruz brand of anti-immigration ideology.