November 5, 2013 – Ana Navarro, Institute of Politics Fellow and political contributor at CNN and CNN en Español, describes herself as a “Republican without labels,” which she explained meant that she is “inclusive, not obstructionist.” Navarro, who served as the National Hispanic Co-Chair for Gov. Jon Huntsman’s 2012 Campaign, spoke to the Shorenstein Center about how punditry has changed political debate, and how politicians might be able to capture the Hispanic vote.
Punditry, Navarro said, “requires a different skill set” than politics. The important thing is to “develop your own voice,” because simply reading talking points doesn’t keep the audience’s attention, she said. She advised students interested in the field to be well informed by reading constantly, keeping up with daily trends on Twitter and building a personal network of sources. There is a delicate balance, she added, between increasing ratings and keeping the political debate substantive. Because “one extremist makes more noise” than more moderate voices, politics on TV often appear more extreme than what reality might suggest.
While the Republican Party has struggled to gain the Hispanic vote, Navarro pointed to Chris Christie as an example of a candidate who has succeeded. Mitt Romney’s campaign on the other hand, she said, was a “manual of what not to do.” Even though Hispanics were generally disillusioned and disappointed with Obama in 2012, “Romney didn’t give them anywhere to run,” she said.
There are “two schools of thought” in the Republican Party regarding the Hispanic vote, Navarro argued. One is that the white vote is enough to carry any candidate, but the other is that the party should “broaden the tent.” And while she subscribes to the latter way of thinking, she still contends that pushing for immigration reform “will not lose white votes.”
Looking forward, Navarro sees changes on the political landscape. “Something snapped in the past month as a result of the shutdown,” she said. The Tea Party “has been coming after incumbent Republicans,” and they have “taken up so much of the oxygen in the room that they’ve begun to define the national perception and brand.” As a result, she observed, more traditional Republicans have started “duking it out more vigorously” with members of the Tea Party.
Article and photo by Janell Sims, Shorenstein Center.