Mel Martinez warned on Meet the Press that Republicans need to notch up the efforts to include Hispanics -- or face minority status as a party.
"The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican Party had better figure out how to talk to them," Martinez said, asked about why Hispanics had flocked to Democrats last Tuesday. He cited some GOP'ers anti-immigration rhetoric as a turnoff for many Hispanic voters.
"I've been preaching this for a long time to my colleagues within my party," he said. "I think that the very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate set a very bad tone for our brand as Republicans."
He noted a "very dramatic shift" in Hispanic support from President Bush to John McCain, adding McCain "did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we're going to be relegated to minority status."
Martinez said he disagreed with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who criticized the choice of Rahm Emanuel -- a sharp-elbowed Illinois pol -- for Barack Obama's chief of staff.
"I think you need someone in that job who you can trust, who's going to cover your backside, and who's smart and can run the trains on time." Martinez said, calling Emanuel a "good choice."