On paper, the field of GOP presidential candidates is a unique sort, especially in the context of “Latino issues.”

Of the Republicans currently declared for president, we have four candidates hailing from states with high Latino populations (over 10%), two are border-state governors, one is married to a Mexican-American, another launched a conservative Latino news site, and one candidate’s father was born in Mexico.

While these tidbits of trivia do not paint a complete picture of the GOP candidate’s efforts to court Hispanic voters, they do highlight one reality: Latinos are an integral part of American life.  According to the U.S. Census one out of every six people living in America are of Hispanic descent.

Latino turnout in 2012 is expected to reach a historic 12.2 million voters about 8.7% of the national electorate. A projected 26% increase from 2008.

Already, the 2012 election has been marked by a renewed focus on courting the growing Hispanic vote.  The first major political ads buys of the 2012 cycle talked about the dismal economy – in Spanish.

Republican groups, like Crossroads GPS and the Republican National Committee (RNC), have earmarked millions of dollars for political advertising in major media markets with dense Latino population, pushing ads in English and Spanish. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) reacted by mimicking GOP efforts with their own multi-million dollar Spanish-language media buy targeting Hispanic voters.

For President Obama to claim victory in 2012, he needs heavy turnout from his base and a repeat level of support from the Latino voters. In 2008, Obama won 67% of the Hispanic vote while Senator John McCain only captured 31%.  Since taking office Obama’s approval has plummeted among Latinos, losing as much as 30% since 2009.

This upcoming election will be about margins. Small margins. An August 2011 Gallup Poll shows that as many as 12 states are in play. While logic would dictate many of these states will turn deep Red or Blue in the next 15 months, a core group of states, many with significant Latino populations, will likely be too close to call until the final hour. Some of these swing states include:

  • Florida (29 Electoral Votes) – 15% of eligible voters are Latino
  • Arizona (11 Electoral Votes) – 18% of eligible voters are Latino
  • Nevada (6 Electoral Votes) – 14% of eligible voters are Latino
  • New Mexico (5 Electoral Votes) – 38% of eligible voters are Latino
  • Colorado (9 Electoral Votes) – 13% of eligible voters are Latino

Keys to Winning Hispanic Voters:

For the GOP to connect with Hispanic they must understand three key things:

1) Latinos are not a monolithic voting bloc and like all things in campaigns, politics is local. Hispanics in Florida are different from Latinos in Nevada.

2) Don’t change your message, but be culturally relevant and consistent. The last things Latinos want is a slick pandering politician that says one thing in English and another thing in Spanish. (P.S. most Latinos are bilingual.) Candidates must offer honest solutions to the problems plaguing Hispanics, and all Americans.

A new study by Latino Decisions shows that President Barack Obama’s support among Hispanic voters has dropped significantly with only 38% of those polled saying they were certain to vote for Obama next year. The figure is down from 49% in June.

The poll was conducted in late July and early August in 21 states with the large Hispanic populations (poll numbers below). It showed Obama with a 63% approval rate. A drop from 73% in April.

While the poll shows a huge political vulnerability for Obama, who needs Latino voters to secure his re-election, it did not show growing support for a GOP alternative. The Latino Decisions poll demonstrated weak support for Republicans with a “soft 22%” of those polled. Pilar Marrero of impreMedia, who first wrote about the Latino Decisions poll, states:

“Only 10% of Latino voters said they are certain to vote for a Republican, while 8% said they may vote for a Republican for president. Another 4% said they are still undecided but leaning toward a Republican candidate.”

When asked about GOP Hispanic outreach, only 18% of Hispanics said the Republican Party has done a “good job.” In contrast, when asked about Democratic Party outreach to Hispanics, 43% said they had done a “good job.”

About half of the Latino population is “very enthusiastic” about voting. A number which will likely increase as the Presidential contest heats up. Earlier this year NALEO projected 26% increase in Latino voters from 2008, reaching over 12.2 million.

Obama received 68% of the Latino vote in his 2008 race against Republican John McCain. Obama’s Latino outreach efforts helped him secure key swing states with large Latino constituencies such as Florida,Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

The poll showed that the economy continued to be the number one issue for Latino voters. USA Today reported “They, like many Americans, were put off by the battle over the nation’s debt ceiling and deficit reduction that concluded in early August.”

Breakdown of poll numbers after the jump.

A new study on Latino entrepreneurs shows that business and family go hand in hand.  The study, “The Pursuit of the American Dream: The Fiscal Practices of Today’s Hispanic Business Owners,” conducted by MassMutual Financial Group, was released this week at the Association of Latino Professional in Finance and Accounting convention in California.

Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) Latino business owners said they started their business to help provide for their family, versus 77% of the general pubic. About 70% of Hispanic entrepreneurs plan to turn over the business to a relative, citing the desire to maintain a family legacy and provide something tangible for their children.

The study points to the important ties between family, business and local community for Hispanics:

  • 89% start a business to provide financially for their families, vs.  77% of all business owners
  • 55% start a business to have something tangible to pass on to their children, vs. 35% of all owners
  • 31 % wanted to provide jobs for other family members, vs. 19 % all business owners
  • 70% have relatives beyond spouses and children who depend on their business success
  • 70% plan to pass their business on to a spouse or children when they retire or die, vs. 54% of all owners
  • 54 % reported “giving back to the community” as a driver to set up shop, vs to 21 % of the general population.

The new research reinforces that for many Latinos, starting a small business is how they pursue the American Dream, take control of their lives, and how they financially support their families. According to Inc.Com Hispanic entrepreneurs cited following their dreams as a motivation to start a business at double the rate of the general population.

Each election cycle, “Latino Outreach” becomes a buzz word of sorts, as pundits and political consultants discuss ways campaigns can capture the Hispanic vote. Campaign staff scramble to establish contacts, build coalitions, train Hispanic surrogates and connect with local Latino leaders. Yet, unfortunately, at the end of each campaign cycle, many times the political infrastructure created by the campaigns disappear. Many of the contacts are forgotten and Latino leaders feel burned by another campaign “aprovechado” to get their vote… and then the cycle starts all over again….

Hispanic Leadership Network Conference in Miami

Leaders at the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) hope to end this broken cycle. In an interview with the Washington Post, HLN’s Executive Director Jennifer Korn said they hope to establish “a concerted effort on an outgoing basis to engage the Hispanic community.” The group hosted its’ inaugural event in January 2011 in Miami with co-chairs Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and over 400 Hispanic leaders from across the country. Now it’s ramping up efforts with a second conference, this time in New Mexico. According to the WP:

“On tap is an HLN gathering on Sept. 23-24 in New Mexico that will invite “Hispanic leaders already engaged” in Republican politics but also “cast a wide net” to reach new voters, candidates and political operatives”

Hispanic Leadership Network’s Re-Building the American Dream Conference will be held on September 23–24, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This two-day conference, taking place during Hispanic Heritage Month, will address how to rebuild the American Dream during these tough financial times. The topics on the agenda include the economy, education, home ownership,  immigration and Hispanic youth. Participants will also participate in media training and discussions on the 2012 election. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval will headline the conference. For more details or to register go to: http://www.hispanicleadershipnetwork.org.

The Hispanic Leadership Network is an initiative of the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. HLN is a national long-term grassroots effort to “engage center-right Hispanics on issues that will restore opportunity and prosperity to America.” Discussing the million dollar effort with the Associated Press, Senator Coleman said:

In an effort to court the crucial Latino vote, this week GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman named Ana Navarro, a Miami-based Republican strategist and GOP fundraiser, as his National Hispanic Chairperson.

Navarro’s appointment was made during a Miami press conference on Wednesday, billed as a “major announcement” to highlight the endorsement of Jeb Bush Jr., the son of the popular Florida Governor.

Jeb Bush Jr., who heads Florida based SunPAC, a Hispanic outreach group, will serve as the National Chairman of “GenH,” the campaign’s youth and young professional outreach program.

Navarro, who co-chaired John McCain’s Hispanic outreach in 2008, is a hard-hitting GOP operative, a seasoned surrogate, who is focused on getting results. While the Huntsman campaign has been slow to gain traction in the polls, Navarro can serve a pivotal role by securing support among Hispanics. Especially in Florida, Latino voters have served as a key voting block for victorious campaigns including President George W. Bush (56%), President Barack Obama (57%) and most recently for Governor Rick Scott (50%) in 2010.

In addition to announcing his new endorsements, Huntsman articulated his Cuba policy. Huntsman said he backs the sanctions and embargo against Cuba. Watch the video for more:

Discussing his support for Huntsman and the candidates’ fiscal policies, Jeb Bush Jr. stated “…between the ages of 20-30, this generation we are going to spend the rest of our life paying for your debts… We need people with substantiate policies and with great ideas to come out and put policies in place to lead my kids’ generation out of this debt.

As the head of Huntsman’s “GenH” efforts targeting young voters Jeb Bush Jr. will have to continue discussing the failing economy and its impact on American’s youth and young professionals. Many believe the GOP can capture the youth vote in 2012.

It’s been a tough month for President Barack Obama. As he said goodbye to the first century of his life, celebrating his 50th Birthday with a party at the White House, he welcomed in more political drama and more real world crises. Last week several media sources said it was Obama’s worst week ever. The Washington Post’s even wrote about it in: “Worst Week in Washington”: Barack Obama”

Yet, this week doesn’t seem any better….A political cartoon by Michael Ramirez for Investors.com says it all….

I love Pitbull! The Miami rapper, born Armando Christian Pérez, has become a worldwide sensation as Pitbull (aka Mr. 305) for his hit singles with the top names in the music industry. His latest Billboard chart topping song, “Give Me Everything” featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer, has been named by many as the anthem of the 2011 summer.

Earlier this week Pitbull appeared on TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb during a special honoring all things Latin. They asked the rapper/producer about his Latin-influenced music and how he collaborates with music sensations like Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo.

During the interview with Kathy Lee and Hoda he was asked how being the child of Cubans has influenced him? Pitbull, a first generation American, answered “…you appreciate everything that this country has to offer which is opportunity, freedom, a chance to create a future for your family, to create your own destiny. It was something thaPt was instilled in us since we where very very young.” (video)