GOP: Obama campaign seeing a "mirage" if they think Arizona is in play

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (R) (D-IL) holds a town hall meeting before a racially diverse crowd at Garfield High School on October 20, 2007 on the east side of Los Angeles, California. East Los Angeles is an area rich in potential Latino votes. Latinos are the fastest growing voting population in the US and therefore, increasingly important to the presidential candidates. Hispanic voters could play crucial roles in several key states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and Texas. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Thousands of protesters rally at the Arizona Capitol
Thousands of protesters rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sunday, April, 25, 2010.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The Republican National Committee is taking significant steps to expand its Hispanic voter outreach in a handful of key states -- but Arizona isn't one of them, in spite of the Obama campaign's intentions to turn the traditionally "red state" into a "blue state" this year.

"My view is the Obama team is setting up a mirage that somehow Arizona is going to be in play or a battleground," RNC chairman Reince Priebus told reporters Monday. "It's a Republican state, it's a red state -- obviously, it's not going to be ignored, but to put it in the category of a battleground state is a mindset we're not adhering to right now."

Priebus announced today that by the end of April, the RNC will have Hispanic State Directors in six of battleground states: Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

Priebus said the state directors will work state and local officials to recruit and engage activists at the community level and create long-lasting relationships with Hispanics "like we never have before." The relationships created "will continue for many electoral cycles to come," he added.

The state directors, Priebus continued, are part of "a very concerted, technical, detailed effort in turning out Hispanic voters for the Republican nominee." He declined to say how much the RNC is investing in the effort, but called the figure "substantial."

The goal of the state directors will be to cater to the unique concerns and characteristics of the Latino communities in their respective states, but they'll deliver a unified message -- in both English and Spanish -- of economic opportunity, the party said.

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Latinos are bearing the brunt of the "Obama economy," Priebus said, citing an unemployment rate higher than the national average and a recent Tarrance Group poll showing that a majority of Hispanics believe the country is on the wrong track.

"Latinos are clamoring for change, and the Republican party is here to offer them that change," Priebus said.

Priebus also said that Latinos should be fed up with the president over immigration as well, because he failed to follow through on his campaign promises to enact immigration reform and the Dream Act -- even when Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and control of the House. The RNC chairman said the president proved he was either "lying" or "grossly negligent" on the issue of immigration.

Immigration has proven to be a dicey issue for the Republican party as it adopts policies at the state level that many Latinos perceive as hostile, such as SB 1070 in Arizona. But those state laws, Priebus said, come "as a result of Obama not leading."

That's not the way the Obama campaign sees it: Democrats think Arizona's growing Latino population and the backlash against SB 1070 gives the president a possible opening there -- even if the state is still a longshot. The president's re-election campaign is mobilizing workers across the state to register student and Latino voters, the New York Times reports. If they make progress in the next three months, they'll keep up the efforts to possibly make the reliably Republican state competitive in the fall.

"It is going to be a swing state," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told the Times. "The question is, whether we can get enough people registered to put it in play this year."

While Priebus called such questions a "mirage," other groups are also anticipating that demographic changes will put the state in play.

A new liberal super PAC called PAC+ -- which is focused on engaging minority voters -- plans to invest in Arizona this year, calling it a "tipping state."

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