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How Jeb Bush's Family History and Latino Voter Outreach Could Boost His Presidential Bid

First Posted: Aug 18, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series that features leading politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

The Republican Party has garnered heat from Latinos for rhetoric and stance on certain issues, such as immigration, but the Jeb Bush campaign is hoping to change that as its Latino engagement is underway with early-voting states.

As the senior adviser for Hispanic engagement for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, Jose Mallea has been overseeing the strategy of how to engage Latinos across the country. In doing that, he's been helping coordinate the different functions, internally, in making sure fellow staffers are informed with analytics, communication, policy and grassroots efforts with teams in early voting states.

"It's incredibly important," said Mallea about the Latino vote during an interview with Latin Post. "I think more so, more than anything, what's important or what distinguishes our effort from a lot of the campaigns is our candidate. We have someone who, for him, this is something that is very personal. This is something that's part of his life; it's something that he's done throughout his career."

Mallea went back to Dade County 1984, when Bush served as the county's Republican Party chairman. He said Bush was incredible in reaching out the Latinos in Dade County, encouraging them to register Republican.

"Jeb Bush -- I joke around when I say this -- he chose to be Hispanic early on in his life," said Mallea, noting other factors have shaped the governor including his marriage to Mexican philanthropist Columba Bush, living abroad in Venezuela, and choosing to raise his family in Miami, "in the community where they're surrounded by immigrants and exiles and a very diverse and dynamic community. These are all things that I think shaped him into the person that he is."

"When it comes to the campaign, it's (the Latino vote) important more than anything because it is a huge priority to the candidate, and then from there, everything else falls into place."

While Bush has campaigned in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the outreach efforts have also been made in Nevada, home to a growing Latino population. With 27.5 percent of Nevada's overall population comprising of Latinos, higher than the national 17.1 percent average, Mallea highlighted Bush's engagement with the community. According to Mallea, the campaign's Nevada team has made their presence known at fairs and events where they talk about the issues and encounter people who want to volunteer for the campaign but more importantly to pledge their participation in state's Republican caucus on Feb. 23, 2016.

"In Nevada, we are actively engaging Latinos to persuade to vote in the Nevada caucus. We're doing the same thing in Iowa, and I will tell you that in Nevada, we're much further along because we have a team on the ground already, which is actively working and doing what they need to do," said Mallea, noting the former governor was in the state last week hosting a roundtable with Latino business leaders.

According to Mallea, Bush is not alone on the campaign trial, as his wife has also held events that included Latina entrepreneurs and religious leaders. Sons Jeb Bush, Jr. and George P. Bush have also shared in engaging Latinos in other states.

One important topic for the Latino community is immigration. Often considered as a "gateway issue," a politician's stance on immigration could make or break the candidate's opportunity to attract the Latino electorate. Bush recently revealed a six-point immigration plan, but Mallea acknowledged that the Republican presidential candidate is the only candidate to have also written a book about the topic, referring to 2013's "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution."

"His record is very transparent," said Mallea. "What I would describe about him, on the immigration issue, is that he's going to take an approach that's responsible. He's going to take an approach that looks at the real immigration crisis. The fact that we have 12 million people, roughly, who are undocumented is something we absolutely need to address, and, like he said, we need to move towards some form of legalization, but you have to take something else into account. The reason why people are here and have status that is illegal is also because our current legal immigration system is broken."

"What I will tell the Latino community is that there will be no other candidate in this race who will be as committed to passing some form of immigration reform that addresses all these issues," added Mallea, stating that Bush studies the issues and its policies before making a campaign promise.

On further attracting the Latino electorate, Mallea recognized technology will be an important element for the campaign.

"Latinos use digital media at higher rates than anybody else, they're more likely to have tablets and smartphones, they're more likely to open mobile apps, they're more likely to engage politically -- especially Latino millennials -- on social media and digital media," Mallea said. "We're going to use that platform...we've already developed a number of different important content, videos and so on that will start coming out in due time."

Mallea said conveying Bush's story is also imperative, which includes his policy and record, but understanding him as a person: the father, the grandfather and husband.

The senior adviser for Hispanic engagement identified that Latinos have become disappointed with both major political parties and those that are politically engaged are more often Democratic-leaning. He said the GOP has not done enough to explain or tell the story of the Republican Party.

"At the same time, we can't ignore the fact that there are a lot of Republicans who used a lot of ugly rhetoric, and especially happening in the last 10 years around the immigration debate, and that rhetoric has been pushing the [Latino] community and perceived as something that's not just anti-immigration but also anti-Hispanic, and when that happens, you start to lose people," said Mallea.

Mallea said Bush will engage Latinos by providing hope, optimism and opportunity, which are aspects he claimed President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have not inspired, but instead have pushed an agenda that sets one group against another.

When asked what separates Bush from Clinton, Mallea said one word: Accomplishments.

Mallea referred to Clinton's track record as New York senator, namely that only three of her sponsored legislation became law between 2001 and 2009.

"That is a long time to be sitting as a legislator in the most powerful legislative body in the country," said Mallea. "[Bush] has governed, he has demonstrated what it takes to be a chief executive, he has made the tough choices that you have to make. And in the areas that matter, especially for Latino voters -- education, small business growth, entrepreneurship, opportunity, all these other things -- he has demonstrated success."

"That is what's going to distinguish him from a lot of his opponents in the primary but more important from Sen. Clinton in the general election," he added.

Mallea said Latino voters should look forward to hearing someone that will deliver a positive message and keep an open mind and give him a chance to tell his story.

"I really think he's the best person to improve the lives and well-being of the Latino community across the country."

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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