As the election gets closer, and more and more politicos ponder the Latino vote, I wanted to re-post a blog I did a few weeks ago asking: Which GOP candidate will win the Latino vote. The hard reality for all Presidential candidates is that all roads to the White House depend on Latino support. For a Republican to win the general election, they will need about 40% of the Hispanic vote. In the hunt to secure key votes in swing states, candidates will need to woo Latinos who makeup major voting constituencies in battle ground states like New Mexico, Nevada, Florida…
As we move into the final days of 2011 and into the full sprint of the GOP Primary season, here are some thoughts for my Republican colleagues:
Keys to Winning Hispanic Voters:
For the GOP to connect with Hispanics the Republican candidates 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.
3) Start now! Connecting with Latinos is about establishing a long-term relationship based on mutual respect. For too long “Hispanic Outreach” has been based on a politically expedient one-way relationship where some well-meaning politician busts out the Mariachi band for a photo-op on Cinco de Mayo and Hispanic Heritage Month, never to be heard from again. All Americans deserve better than that.
There is a lot more that goes into an effective Hispanic engagement strategy. It is important to have a knowledgeable campaign staff with experience in Latino civic engagement, communicate an agenda that speaks to issues personally impacting Hispanics and have an aggressive Hispanic media relations effort. Campaigns must deploy strong surrogates to deliver the campaign’s message in both English and Spanish. Yet, if the candidate doesn’t understand the three key concepts, voters are smart enough to know the difference.
The economy will be a major issue in this election cycle, as Hispanics have been hardest hit by the economic recession. Yet, connecting with Latinos is much more complex than a single issue, it’s about creating a respectful dialogue, especially on immigration.
I worry about the direction of the current immigration debate and hope that the GOP candidates take note of their tone. They need to refocus on the number one issue for all Americans – the economy.