Iowa Republicans forced to cancel first ever Black and Brown forum

Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich, former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Rep. Rand Paul pose during a photo opportunity before the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015.

Darren Hauck/Reuters

DES MOINES -- The Iowa Republican Party had planned to host its first-ever Black and Brown forum Thursday -- but cancelled it two weeks ago, citing scheduling conflicts. Instead, most GOP candidates spent the day in Washington, D.C., at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The Iowa GOP party had sent out a save the date to GOP candidates but they had not yet invited or widely engaged local leaders in the African American and Latino communities. Santos Saucedo, the first Latino council member in Muscatine who has been working at Monsanto for 20 years, didn't take cancellation too hard.

"It is one of those things where if people didn't know it was going to happen how could it even be an issue? It is out-of-sight and out-of-mind," Saucedo said.

Saucedo, an independent, has met with Rubio and Sanders and has been courted by a number of other campaigns. He feels both parties must do more to reach out to young Latino voters.

The event had been touted as a trailblazing moment for the GOP in Iowa and was announced over the summer by the Iowa State Republican Party.

"I was very interested in hearing how all of the presidential candidates would address the issues facing minority communities here in Iowa and across the country each and every day. But I guess we got their answer: they won't be addressing our issues at all," said Iowa Democratic Party Black Caucus Chair Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad in a conference call with reporters.

"I think they honestly wanted to do this," explained Andy McGuire, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, in a conference call with reporters. "I think they were unable to get their candidates to come to the forum which is unfortunate," she said, noting that most of the candidates were in Washington.

Iowa Republicans promised to work with the Black and Brown Forum before the early February caucuses, but nothing has yet been scheduled.

While it's true that the state's demographic profile is changing and the next generation of Iowa's voters are likely to be more racially mixed, for now, the Republican caucuses are decidedly not. In 2008 and 2012, 99 percent of the GOP caucus goers were white.

The general election may be a different matter, Anthony Salvanto, CBS News' director of elections, suggested.

"Last time, in 2012, Hispanic voters were two percent of the total. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that Iowa is a battleground state and we expect it to be again. That could magnify the impact and certainly if turnout grows."