Sunday, April 21, 2024

GOP to Increase Focus on Hispanic Voter Gap


The Republican Party saw a sharp collapse in support from Hispanic voters in 2006, one that carried on in the 2008 election. Due to GOP attacks on illegal immigration, it was no surprise that Hispanic voters fled to the Democratic Party. In fact, John McCain only got 31 of the 44 percentage points George W. Bush won from the Hispanic voting population. This helped to secure Obama’s win, and as the Democratic Party continues solidify its power many Republican leaders are looking for ways to pick up the pieces. Former Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX) said the situation is urgent: “If we don’t figure out a way to open our party up to more Hispanic voters, nothing else will matter.”

The percentage of Hispanic voters in the United States is growing fast, especially in a number of swing states –potentially giving the Democrats an edge in the 2010 election.

The Republican Party is beginning to establish a response, but so far few visible attempts have been made to change the situation. The GOP is courting a few ideas to get the ball rolling: possibly creating an organization or political action committee to back Hispanic GOP candidates; Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has indicated that minority outreach is to be a priority at the RNC; and looking at immigration reform as an in if Obama continues to defer action on the issue.

In Florida, the weakening Republican Party can be seen very clearly especially since it was seen as the “heartland of Hispanic Republicanism.” There, one of the GOP’s brightest Hispanic Republican stars, Senator Mel Martinez, is retiring after fighting with fellow Republicans in 2005 and 2006 immigration battles. The party has chosen for his successor Gov. Charlie Crist, and in doing so they have neglected former Florida House Speaker Marc Rubio – a rising star among Hispanic Republicans. Ana Navarro, a prominent Republican fundraiser in Miami, sees this as betrayal. She explains Rubio is “the only potential new Republican candidate for federal office that we have that is Hispanic and young, and they turn their backs on [him].”

The situation in Florida  demonstrates the Republican Party’s need for Hispanic leaders who can carry their banner increase outreach and build coalitions in the community. Hispanic Republicans believe the message and the party in general will face several challenges in this endeavor.

According to a poll conducted by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, only 8 percent of Hispanic voters believe that the Republican Party has more concern for Hispanics than the Democratic Party does. Frank Guerra, a Republican media consultant in Texas, said “Republicans need to be much more welcoming, less incendiary and much more thoughtful.” There is a debate occurring as to which messaging approach to take –appeal to Hispanic voters on conservative cultural and economic values, an approach that worked well for George W. Bush, or instead establish something new.

Many of the Hispanic Republicans are urging the party to take a new approach. Navarro emphasizes immigration as a hot button item to change tone and increase focus. She says, “It presents a remarkable opportunity for Republicans to call Obama’s bluff and say, ‘OK, what do you have to offer on immigration?’”

No matter what issues or messaging they decide to focus on, it is clear they need to start moving. Guerra explains “this is a very dangerous period for the Republican Party because this population is growing so fast, it’s on such a trajectory, so if they lose the next cycle, I don’t know how they turn it around in the cycle after that.”