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GOP Leader Urges Party Not to Discount Asian American Vote

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Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel.
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    Unlike some Republican campaign consultants, Shawn Steel hasn’t yet thrown in the towel on the Republican Party capturing a large share of the Asian American vote in 2012.

    Polls have shown that Asian Americans look more favorably on the Democratic Party than the GOP (I-W, Aug. 24), but the Republican National Committee member and former chairman of the California Republican Party begs to disagree.

    He told India-West that Mitt Romney would do well to target the Asian American vote in key states like Nevada, Florida and Virginia, if he wants to be the next president of the United States.

    Steel, who is married to Korean American Michelle Park Steel, vice chair of the California State Board of Equalization, said many Asians share “fundamental core values” with the Republican Party.

    These include valuing education and the fact that Asians have a high proportion of small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals.

    The Republican political leader blasted candidates who engage in race baiting. “The American model is to be color blind. We should always take the best person. It maddens me when they do that.”

    Republicans generally are not xenophobic, he opined. “I think about 98 percent of Republicans favor (legal) immigration. America brings in more immigrants than all other countries combined.” 

    “Asian Americans are a group of immigrants who have immigrated to the U.S. and assimilated so quickly and so well. Previous (groups) took three generations to become so successful.”

    “So many political consultants are buffoons,” the tough-talking GOP leader said. As one example, he cited Republican Meg Whitman’s campaign spending in her run for governor in 2010 against Jerry Brown, who won rather easily despite a tight budget and a lean staff.

    Whitman spent about $160 million, including $140 million of her own money, but very little of those funds were spent in the Asian American communities.

    As an example of a Republican candidate who has taken the Asian American vote seriously, Steel mentioned Governor Bob McDonald of Virginia. McDonald has actively campaigned in the Korean and Vietnamese communities.

    “He convinced shop owners in those (communities) to put up signs in their native languages in their store fronts.” The strategy, Steel added, not only got votes in those communities, but also “softened his image to Caucasians who shopped in those stores. It got to the moderate voters.”

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is another Republican who acknowledges the importance of the Asian American vote, Steel said.

    Indian Americans are the largest Asian group in New Jersey and their population center is Middlesex County. In 2009, Christie won in the county, a perennial Democratic Party stronghold, by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin.

    Steel hopes to make a case at this week’s Republican convention for Romney and other Republican candidates to take the Asian American vote more seriously. 

    But the GOP consultant believes President Obama’s reelection hopes still hinge on the economy. “Fair or not, the public always blames the president for the economy. That is just how it works.”

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