On September 19th Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry flew to NYC to court donors and supporters.  But his courting was not limited to Wal-Street bankers or businessmen.  The presidential hopeful also met with Jewish and Hispanic community leaders.  Leaving aside the chance the GOP could actually win a decent percentage of the Jewish vote in 2012 due to Obama’s stance on Israel a major question has to be asked.  Is the Hispanic vote up for grabs in 2012? 

If one follows recent elections the answer would be emphatically no.  Democrats won over 70% of Hispanics votes in 2006 and 68% of the Hispanic vote in 2008.  Even in 2010 when Democrats were crushed in the midterm elections they won 60% of the Hispanic vote.  But those numbers must be used with caution considering Hispanics overwhelming went with Democratic candidates in the NV Senate race (even as they voted more Republican for a Hispanic Governor) and in CO for Governor and Senate.  In states such as Texas and New Mexico however the GOP gubernatorial winners grabbed 38% and over 40% of the Hispanic vote respectively (NM based on last surveys conducted before election).

Recent events have not been kind to Democrats, and especially the president’s, chances of winning 68% of this growing voting bloc’s vote again.  In Gallup survey released on September 7th the President stood at 48% approval among Hispanics.  This is down from a 75% approval rating among the group when he was first elected. Combined with the president’s unbelieveably meager 33% of approval among whites this is depressing news for Democrats.  Unemployment among Hispanics is higher than whites and only slightly lower than blacks.  Hispanic median income has not grown in over a decade.

And the president, according to liberal activists, has dropped the ball on issues that appeal to Hispanics.  He has failed to even push “Immigration Reform.”  His drive for the Dream Act (giving illegals children amnesty) was half-hearted at best.  And if surveys are to be believed Hispanics are counting.  But if Hispanics are mad at the president for these infractions what chance does a GOP candidate who is anti-amnesty, pro border security stand in winning Hispanic votes?  Considering the president’s standing and the wide range of issues to be debated in 2012 perhaps not as bad as one might expect.

One only need to look at the immigration record of the current GOP presidential frontrunner, Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Perry has been Governor of the largest border state in the country for 10 years and to boot he actually has a moderate record on immigration.  He has supported allowing in-state tuition for illegals, opposes simply building a border fence and has promoted several jobs programs that appeal to Hispanics.  Moreover, the Governor has a record of winning Hispanic votes.  In 2006 the Governor won 31% (out of a four candidate field) and in 2010 won 38% of their vote.  If Perry is the GOP nominee, he at least believes he can court this voter group as evidenced by his NYC trip.

How the rest of the GOP field would compete for Hispanic votes is up for grabs.  Romney could appeal to some on business background but his Morman faith is likely a big turn-off to laregly Catholic Hispanics.  Bachmann, Huntsman, Paul have little to get Hispanics attention. Santorum could appeal on social grounds but likely would struggle to gain traction.  Cain could go for trying to repeat Obama’s 2008 feat as a transformation minority candidate but that has already been done for(with such excellent results). 

For all the GOP’s problems with courting Hispanics the White House is regardless extremely worried.  In fact, on September 19th the DOJ just fired the White House’s opening salvo in its fight for Hispanic votes.  Texas’s controversial redistricting plan was cited by the DOJ for being in violation of Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act.  The background in a nutshell is that Texas gained four new Congressional districts, largely due to Hispanic growth.  The GOP decided to gamble and draw no new Hispanic-majority districts, instead seeking to create four new safe or GOP leaning seats.  Texas had already filed with the DC District Court for pre-clearance before the DOJ’s ruling.  The background aside the contrast the WH and DOJ are trying to make is clear.  We are fighting for your rights to have “regional” representation, the GOP is fighting to limit your voting power (course if you buy that argument than you should support removing Section 5 from the CRA).

The crappy state of the economy and high unemployment ensure that Hispanic votes will be hotly contested.  And even if a majority of Hispanics vote for Democrats and the president how big that majority is and where could determine the president’s and Democrats fates.  Obama is unlikely to win the same 95% of the African American vote and 43% of the white vote in 2008.  And he is also unlikely to attract the same kind of support and turnout among core support groups that he did in 2008. 

In short, the Hispanic vote is up for grabs in 2012.  And it will be hotly contested.

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