Is the GOP's Rift With Latino Voters Growing?

Most potential 2012 candidates won't show up at a Latino GOP conference

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From battles over immigration reform to decrying Supreme Court then-nominee Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments, Republicans have not seemed to be courting Latino voters of late. This week, Republicans voted down the immigration-reforming DREAM Act--the only major Democratic bill to fail during the lame-duck session. Now, the Hispanic Leadership Network conference, established by such party figures as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, is trying to bring GOP leaders and Latino voters together. But there's a problem: the likely 2012 GOP presidential contenders have mostly turned the conference down. Only Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has agreed to come, and most have said "no" outright. Is the party giving up on one of the country's largest, and fastest-growing, ethnic groups? Or is this just a coincidence?

  • GOP Ceding Latinos to Democrats?  Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown writes, "A poor showing could raise doubts about the commitment of Republicans to court Hispanics, one of the open-ended questions of the 2012 presidential cycle." As for the Democrats, "President Barack Obama has signaled his intent to fight hard for Latino voters, telling Congressional Hispanic Caucus members this week that he will renew his push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2011, even though it stands little chance of passing"
  • Is the GOP Giving Up Florida--And Maybe Texas?  Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis says this "isn't a good sign of the willingness of these candidates to appear to the fastest growing minority group in the country, and one that is becoming a powerful voting bloc in California, Texas, and Florida, which account for 122 Electoral Votes under the new Census apportionment."
  • Wow: Even Marco Rubio Not Going  "Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, who is poised to become a top Republican and frequently invoked his parents’ story of fleeing from Castro’s Cuba to settle in the U.S., also isn’t on the agenda," The Washington Independent's Luke Johnson points out that. "I’ve emailed his spokesman regarding his plans." Rubio represents Florida, so presumably this would be an easy conference for him to attend.
  • Is This Really Surprising?  Barbara Morrill scoffs at liberal Daily Kos. "This news comes fresh off the Republican crushing of the DREAM Act, their recent wholesale support of racial profiling in Arizona, and of course their demonization of brown people over the years, so their lack of interest in addressing this 'fastest-growing slice of the electorate' isn't a surprise."
The organizers for HLC perhaps should have rethought their scheduling and picked a date farther into spring, perhaps in April or May for their first-ever conference. Its close proximity to CPAC alone will mean that potential attendees may have to decide whether to spend money in Miami for a limited event or spend it in DC for CPAC where they can network on a much wider basis. The GOP definitely needs to organize to make their case to Hispanic voters, but organizers need to keep logistics in mind, too.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.