The Latino community in Florida has drastically changed in the last few years. Growing numbers of Puerto Ricans, Latin Americans and a new generation of Cuban-American voters have attempted to change the political landscape in the Sunshine State. A recent AP story demonstrates that while Florida Democrats have been able to increase Latino voter registration, they have not been able to convert those number into political power. AP: Florida Democrats Try to Make Inroads with Latino Voters
“…But despite their success on paper, state Democratic officials are struggling to connect with Hispanics, who have little representation among the party’s Florida leadership.
That could spell trouble not just for the future of the party in a state that’s now nearly a quarter Latino, but also for President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will be counting on Latino support during tough races next year.”
Florida Democrats have done a poor job in cultivating Latino Leaders and investing time in the Hispanic community. In contrast, Hispanic Republicans have risen to some of the highest levels of state political power over several decades, with recent examples like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, three members of Congress and state House Majority Leader Carlos Lápez-Cantera.
This large pool of articulate and bi-lingual surrogates and operatives for the Republican Party has helped keep the race for the Hispanic vote competitive ensuring attention is kept on the important, and ever-changing, demographic.
Democrats want to ensure that the Florida makes a repeat performance in the “blue column” and votes for Obama in 2012. Florida Democrats have hired key staffers with experience in Latino inclusion, already coordinating phone banks and grassroots operations, with special emphasis in the important 1-4 corridor, in Central Florida.
On paper, things might look good for Democrats, as Hispanic Democrats now outnumber Hispanic Republicans. Yet, trends show a large number of Florida Latinos are registering independent and if the last two election cycles are any indicators, they are independent swing voters. Latinos in Florida supported Obama in 2008, but in 2010 over 50% of Hispanics helped secure victory for Republicans electing Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate and Rick Scott for Governor….
As a political operative who worked both the 2008 and the 2010 election cycle, there is a clear difference in overall turnout when you invest in Spanish media. When you buy ads targeted to the Latino community, you get results. The stereotypical “last push” which usually includes Hispanic events and “outreach” doesn’t work… especially in a state like Florida where voting (due to absentee ballots and early voting) basically is almost a month-long process.
Both parties will need to focus attention on the Florida’s Hispanic voters, and the various and diverse voting blocks within the Latino community. Understanding these difference, and creating culturally relevant appeals and connections with these voters, can be the key in electoral victory in 2012.
Note to GOP Presidential campaigns, start working NOW on building your relationship with the Latino community. It is that “calor humano” that will make all the difference on election day. Don’t make the same mistakes of the past, and think the “last push “will get you over the finish line… Latinos voters know better.