As the presidential election comes into clearer and clearer focus the parties are refining their messages to target specific groups. For the GOP finding the right message to target Hispanic voters in the ever important swing states of NV, NM and CO in the West and Florida is crucial. Hispanics share of not just the population but the electorate is also growing and that means for the GOP to win the presidency this year they must do better among this crucial constituency than they did in 2008.
In 2008 Barack Obama won 68% of the national Hispanic vote. In the crucial swing states of NM, NV and CO Obama won over 70% of each state’s Hispanic vote according to exit polls. Even among the more conservative leaning Cuban-Hispanic population in Florida Obama did well. As such the GOP recognizes they must turn this trend around and in a move to woo Hispanic voters the RNC sent six Hispanic operatives to CO, FL, NM, NV, NC and VA.
Hispanics have been hardest hit from the recession. Republican operatives and strategists remain hopeful that they can turn Hispanics displeasure with the economy into support along with specific micro-tailored messages to particular Hispanic groups in key states.
Yet for the GOP targeting the Hispanic vote is nothing new. Since 2004 the GOP has been hinting as well as hoping that the Hispanic vote will turn out to be the next swing constituency in the country. Instead, since 2006 Democrats have never failed to win 60% of their vote nationally. Even in 2010 Democrats won 60% of the Hispanic vote and even more in key races across the country. Democrats argue the GOP’s extremist policies on border control and to a lesser degree protecting the rich have hurt them among Hispanic voters. The GOP of course disagrees.
However there appears to be little disagreement that many GOP controlled states that have taken tough stances on illegals and border control has helped the GOP among Hispanics. Many states, not just GOP controlled states but also Northeastern Democratic states have also passed voter-ID laws. By contrast President Obama and many Democrats have actively pushed for a limited form of amnesty in the DREAM Act. When it failed in the Senate in 2010 (it had bipartisan support and opposition) the President had no issue with blaming the GOP.
GOP strategists acknowledge it will be a tough climb to win Hispanic voters in big numbers. Yet Republicans at the national, state and local level plan to hammer home the economic message that the recession has hit Hispanics particularly hard. According to the Department of Labor’s statistics 10.3% of Hispanics are unemployed compared to 8.3% of the population. And among Hispanic youth that number is far worse. The GOP is planning on using this statistic to forcefully remind Hispanic voters of this president’s record on job creation.
Some Republicans also hope that GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will pick a Hispanic to be his VP. He has quite a few options now that 2010 is gone with Governor Brian Sandoval (NV), Governor Susana Martinez (NM) and Florida Senator Marco Rubio to choose from. Yet for VP picks demography and ethnicity can only be but one of many factors considered. Some GOP strategists also worry about it back-firing or not even working and wasting a golden opportunity to make Romney look more down to earth. Romney recently espoused self-deportation and has been relatively quiet on Cuba illustrating how much ground the GOP has to make their top of the ticket candidate appeal to Hispanics.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is having none of it however. He continues to stand by the fact he believes Hispanics will come to the GOP because it is the party of ideas, fiscal and family values and can get the economy running again. Republicans hope this is true, especially in 2012, but the verdict is still out.