His­pan­ics to hear from GOP; top can­di­dates join Span­ish-lan­guage de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

The top Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates re­versed course and have agreed to take part in a Span­ish-lan­guage de­bate next month aimed at His­panic vot­ers, set­ting up an ac­ri­mo­nious clash over il­le­gal aliens, an is­sue roil­ing the Repub­li­can pri­mary.

Fred Thompson agreed to the de­bate Nov. 8, ig­nit­ing a dash to sign up by for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani and for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee. Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona al­ready had ac­cepted the de­bate, to be broad­cast by Univi- sion, the coun­try’s largest Span­ish-lan­guage television net­work.

It comes even as Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rom­ney are spar­ring over who takes the tough­est line on il­le­gal en­try, with Mr. Rom­ney re­leas­ing a new television com­mer­cial Nov. 9 lay­ing out his stance.

“As pres­i­dent, I’ll op­pose amnesty, cut fund­ing for sanc­tu­ary cities and se­cure our borders,” he says in the ad, which will run in the early-vot­ing states of New Hamp­shire and Iowa. “Le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is great, but il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion — that’s got to stop.”

That mes­sage could clash with the de­bate’s tar­get His­panic au­di­ence. Polls have found that many His­pan­ics say the tenor of the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate has in­creased dis­crim­i­na­tion against them.

The de­bate is sched­uled for Dec. 9. Can­di­dates will an­swer ques­tions in English, and their an­swers will be trans­lated into Span­ish for broad­cast.

Democrats held the first na­tional Span­ish-lan­guage de­bate in Septem­ber, also broad­cast by Univi­sion. Ques­tions in that de­bate in­cluded ones about more fenc­ing on the U.S.-Mex­ico border and English-lan­guage re­quire­ments and whether can­di­dates would sus­pend im­mi­gra­tion raids, in ad­di­tion to the stan­dard fare about the Iraq war and ed­u­ca­tion.

The top Repub­li­cans have been crit­i­cized for fail­ing to show up at a Septem­ber fo­rum aimed at black vot­ers and, un­til now, for re­fus­ing the Univi­sion fo­rum. And not all of the Repub­li­cans seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion will show up.

Rep. Tom Tan­credo, a staunch op­po­nent of il­le­gal en­try, won’t be at­tend­ing, said his spokesman, Alan Moore. The Colorado Repub­li­can rou­tinely crit­i­cizes what he sees as the Balka­niza­tion of Amer­ica and places part of the blame on groups that in­sist on speak­ing lan­guages other than English for pub­lic pur­poses.

But the can­di­dates who have ac­cepted said they see an op­por- tu­nity. In his let­ter ac­cept­ing the de­bate in­vi­ta­tion, Mr. Rom­ney said he wanted to talk to His­panic vot­ers about “stronger fam­i­lies, a stronger econ­omy and a stronger mil­i­tary.”

“Th­ese are the val­ues that have at­tracted mil­lions of His­pan­ics to the Repub­li­can Party, and I be­lieve they will con­tinue to do so in the fu­ture,” he said.

Jeff Sa­dosky, a spokesman for Mr. Thompson, said his mes­sage won’t change to fit the au­di­ence.

“Sen­a­tor Thompson’s mes­sage to vot­ers is the same re­gard­less of ge­og­ra­phy or seat he is cam­paign­ing for,” he said, adding that the de­bate is a chance to reach a grow­ing de­mo­graphic.

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