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.
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.