Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The national Republican party yesterday unveiled a 10$ million plan to go after the Hispanic vote and other demographics that went against the GOP in the last election. Here to talk about the effort is ASU pollster Dr. Bruce Merrill. it's a pleasure to have you here. $10 million outreach effort. What's going on here?
Dr. Bruce Merrill: Well, Ted, when you are the Republican party you cannot give away 75% of the people of color in this country and compete at a mat level. So the Republicans are really divided within their own party. Rush Limbaugh said today the problem really wasn't that the Republicans need to be more concerned about the moderates in this country and about social programs, what they need to do is become even more conservative in the future. So you have this division in the Republican party as to what needs to be done. That doesn't bode well for the party itself.
Ted Simons: when you look at national numbers, though, it would seem relatively clear Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding that when you look nationally further to the right is not where most folks want for go.
Dr. Bruce Merrill: It's not except that that's where the action happens in the primary system. One of the real dilemmas here is that there's a difference between the general election, you're absolutely right, the higher the turnout. It's like a bell curve, the more you get people in the middle. The extremists on the right and the left become smaller proportions as turnout increases. But the problem as you saw with Romney is that for a Republican to get the nomination you only have 25 or 30% of the Republicans voting they have to move so far to the right that they are out of the mainstream of American politics.
Ted Simons: this particular effort by the Republican party, this is part of a broader report trying to expand the base and find ways to win after two successive losses to President Obama. One thing mentioned was fewer primaries, fewer candidates running so they can focus the message. Make sense?
Dr. Bruce Merrill: Well, it makes sense unless a whole bunch of people want to run. That always happens here in Arizona, of course. The parties get in trouble when they try to say we're going to favor one candidate over another. So I do think, Ted, that really there's in my opinion a lack of understanding among the Republicans as to what the problem is. The problem isn't people of color. It's not the color of your skin. It's not the fact that you're a minority. It's the fact that such a large proportion of people in America are poor. There are many poor white people. It's the Republicans think that they are going to fix this problem with band aids, by that get more Hispanic candidates like Marco Rubio or whatever, what they should be focusing on is programs that help people that don't have a lot of money to participate in the American system and to get part of the pie.
Ted Simons: But you will hear from Republicans, we hear from Republicans on this program all the time, that's exactly what they are doing. Business tax cuts, personal income tax cuts, getting government regulations out of the way. This frees up business to hire folks and commit steams forward.
Dr. Bruce Merrill: that's all great. In fact one of the interesting things to me is you would think that a community the Hispanic community is almost a natural Republican constituency at least in the past. There social conservatives. The Republicans tend to be social conservatives. They are hard working people that want to get ahead. As you've said the Republicans say, we want to help people get ahead, but the problem is that the Republican party, for instance they are now saying let's extend the retirement age from 65 to 66, maybe 67 . Well, that doesn't hurt people that have money. But what if you have been a working person out in the sun your whole life and you're beat up and tired and you Don have a lot of money? That's a pretty tough thing. So my point is that I think if you go back and look, after the civil war when the Republicans freed the slaves, african-americans were 100% virtually Republican for years until the great depression. Then when the great depression came, what happened is the Democrats came out with programs that helped poor people. So I think what the Republicans don't really understand here is this isn't going to be a one-election fix or a ten-year election fix. The Republicans need to take a longer view. This could take several generations before they convince people that are lower socioeconomic people that the party really cares about them.
Ted Simons: what about an issue like immigration reform? How much movement are you seeing from the Republican party on that?
Dr. Bruce Merrill: Well, I think that's a very important one. It's very interesting and makes my point from earlier. If you really look at Mccain's program for illegal immigration reform eight years ago it's really where we're headed now. The Republicans need to do that. The interesting thing with the Republican party again, though, Ted, is the party itself is divided on even that issue in terms of the tea party, the Russell Pearce’s in Arizona, that are saying that's amnesty. We can't go out and give these people a path to citizenship. So one of the real problems that I see for the Republican Party is they don't have their act together within the party. They have to get their act together in the party before they can go out and sell a brand to the public.
Ted Simons: It's interesting you mention selling a brand. Throughout all this I'm curious whether or not Republican rank and file see these changes as the right things to do or the political necessities. If you are part of the Latino community do you see that as political expediency or a true change of heart?
Dr. Bruce Merrill: That's part of the problem. The Republicans are going to have to convince minorities they can be trusted, that they really do have the interests of people at heart. I think the best way for them to do that is with education reform. Always in America the path to getting ahead in America is doing more than your parents did. Getting a better education. You can't -- this goes back to Romney's statement about the 47% that are on the public Dole. America is almost on the verge of becoming two Americas. The report did mention this. The problem with the Republican Party, too old, too white, too wealthy. Then you've got this other 50% that don't even pay taxes in America because they are too poor to pay taxes. You're almost like we're evolving towards two Americas. A wealthy upper middle class white America and a lower socioeconomic America. The needs of those two populations are often quite different.
Ted Simons: Before we let you go, Republicans obviously trying to figure this out. It's interesting that on the democratic side we're not seeing much infighting at all.
Dr. Bruce Merrill: political parties ebb and flow. There's great danger in my opinion for the Democratic Party because it's the Democratic Party gets too big and too successful they will divide into two factions like the Republicans and they are in trouble.
Ted Simons: we'll have you back on. Democratic infighting. What's going on?
Dr. Bruce Merrill: We'll do it.
Ted Simons: Thank you.
Dr. Bruce Merrill: you bet, Ted.