When talking to Latino voters, what is more important: the tone of the debate or the substance? That is the constant question asked by candidates, perplexed on how to effectively connect with the growing Hispanic electorate, scheduled to reach 12.2 million voters in 2012. Even though the economy, jobs and education continue to be top issues for Latino voters, immigration has dominated the conversation.
Campaign & Elections Magazine has a new post by Chris Palko titled “Winning the Hispanic vote in 2012.” He states that recent numbers indicate that tone trumps substance on immigration. He also suggests some other topics candidates should focus on, including government spending, education and national security.
“…The media’s focus influences strategists from both political parties who routinely view the key to winning Hispanic voters as championing some form of immigration reform. But is immigration really the main issue of concern for Hispanics? Not by a long shot. The No.1 issue that Hispanic voters care about is education…
…Republicans do have an image problem among most Hispanic voters, but it is not a crushing deficit and there is room for improvement. Democrats, meanwhile, are more trusted overall, although they are far from beloved. In many respects, the immigration issue is a proxy for “respecting the Hispanic community.” If there are image problems for Republicans among Hispanics, it has more to do with a perceived lack of respect than the details of an immigration policy. Moreover, Republican politicians could make inroads with Hispanic voters if they indicate that they respect the community, and refrain from demonizing immigrants…” READ MORE
The reason tone is so important in efforts to connect with Hispanics is easy, a Latino will not consider a candidate if he/she feels the tone of that person is harsh or anti-Latino. A candidate can be offering all the answers in the world, be full of great substance, but if a Latino feels the candidate hates Latinos, the candidates is not going to get that vote.
As the 2012 election inches closer, Republican candidates must ensure they are connecting and engaging Hispanic voters. Recently, the Obama campaign announced their National Latino Vote Director. On the Republican side, only Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have announced official efforts to court Latino voters.
A recent Univision poll has Obama ahead of GOP Presidential candidates. Yet, it also showed that Republican candidates have made little effort to connect with Hispanic voters, and have low name identification.
“At the moment, Latinos are not very familiar with the slate of Republican candidates. Over half – 53 percent – have never no opinion of or have never heard of Cain, for instance…
All four of the following candidates – Romney, Perry, Cain and Gingrich – have net negative favorability ratings among Latinos. And Romney, whom political insiders view as the favorite for the GOP nomination, is unknown to many Latinos: 46 percent say they have no opinion or have never heard of him.
Only 13 percent of Latinos say the GOP has done a good job reaching out to them, while 42 percent say Republicans don’t care too much about them and 30 percent believe they are being openly hostile. By comparison, 45 percent of Latinos believe that Democrats have done a good job of reaching out them, while 32 percent say they are apathetic. Only eight percent say they are openly hostile.”
Republicans have a major opportunity this election cycle to connect with Latino voters, given the growing disenchantment with Obama among Hispanics and the general electorate. In order for the GOP to win the White House, they need Latinos, about 40% of the support of the Hispanic community to win. Efforts to engage Hispanic must start now for the Republican Party to have a real chance to win in November 2012.