Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus held what were billed as engagement and listening sessions with Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Tuesday in East Los Angeles and Chinatown as part of the party's Growth and Opportunity Project.
Priebus began the project in December to analyze the party's strengths and weaknesses in the 2012 election, develop a plan to increase membership in the party and improve future Republican campaigns.
Priebus' visit to Los Angeles came on the second day of a four-day trip that began in Denver, where he met with Latino leaders. He is scheduled to be in the San Francisco area Wednesday for meetings with technology experts and Seattle Thursday for a meeting focused on early voting.
According to Gallup Daily tracking polls taken throughout 2012, 32 percent of Latinos surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, with 13 percent identifying as Republicans while 36 percent of Asian Americans surveyed identified themselves as Democrats and 17 percent as Republicans.
"Republicans suffer from the perception" among both Latinos and Asian Americans that the party is "anti-immigration," John J. Pitney Jr., the Claremont McKenna College Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics, told City News Service.
"Republicans would argue that they favor both legal immigration and tougher measures against illegal immigration -- but in politics, it's perception that counts."
Immigration is not the only issue hurting Republicans among Latinos, Pitney said.
"On a variety of issues, Latinos tend to take more liberal positions, so even if immigration were not a top concern, the conservative GOP would still have a tough time winning a majority of Latino votes," Pitney said.
Republicans "probably won't top 50 percent with either Asians or Latinos," Pitney said, but "can probably do much better than they've done in recent elections" by emphasizing issues of common concern, like education, Pitney said.
"Here in California, close ties to teacher unions have severely compromised Democratic politicians," Pitney said. "Republicans could plausibly argue that they would do a better job of putting students ahead of union bosses.
"Most of all, Republicans just need to show up and keep showing up. They need to work harder to campaign in Latino and Asian communities and keep doing so year in and year out."