With Rush Limbaugh being painted by Democrats as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and the Hispanic vote swinging back to the Democratic side in the last election, it's worth asking: What do prominent Hispanic Republicans think of Rush Limbaugh?
Is he helping or hurting the cause to bring them back under the conservative tent?
HispanicBusiness.com asked several Hispanic Republican leaders to weigh in on Limbaugh, who last week publicly lashed out at Michael Steele, the new leader of the Republican National Committee, for referring to Limbaugh as an "entertainer" whose commentary could be "ugly." To the delight of Democrats, Steele later apologized to Limbaugh.
Steele's relatively moderate stance on many Republican issues -- and the fact that he is black -- seem to indicate that the Republicans are trying to broaden their base. Meanwhile, the Republicans lost a sizable chunk of the Hispanic vote in the last election: While 44 percent chose George W. Bush in 2004, just 31 percent went for John McCain in 2008.
Most of the handful of leading Hispanic Republicans interviewed by HispanicBusiness.com were quick to dismiss the entire Limbaugh-Steele flap as a clever ploy by the Democratic Party to divide Republicans. Still, they also tended to rally behind Steele more than Limbaugh, referring to him as the leader of the party, and Limbaugh as an entertainer.
Of the six interviewees, just one would go so far as to say Limbaugh is more of a liability than an asset in the effort to win back a bigger share of the Hispanic vote.
"If you listen to him, he hoots and hollers -- it's entertaining," Joe Gomez, the state leader of the New York chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, told HispanicBusines.com. But, he added, "I think Mr. Limbaugh is too far to the right to be considered a conservative. . . . I think he hurts the cause."
Gomez said he seldom listens to the show, save for the YouTube clippings he receives from friends showing Limbaugh making controversial remarks.
"I just don't agree with his ranting and raving," he said.
Danny Vargas, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, was more careful.
"It's much ado about nothing," Vargas told HispanicBusiness.com of the Steele dustup. "It's sad that the White House and some Democrats felt it appropriate to have this little issue going on when we're dealing with so much big stuff."
Still, Vargas said Steele -- not Limbaugh -- is the true leader of the party.
"By no means would anybody say (Limbaugh) represents the entire spectrum of the Republican Party," he said. "I don't think even he would try to paint himself as the leader of the party."
In Steele, Vargas, founder and president of a Virginia marketing and public-relations firm called VARCom Solutions, sees a promising leader.
"I met with him yesterday, and he is an exceptional individual," Vargas said earlier this week. "He'll bring a lot of new energy and optimism to the party nationally."
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