That growth means more voters.
In 2014, there were 50,000 registered Latino voters in the state, with 20,000 more who could have been registered, according to a League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa analysis. That's 70,000 potential Latino voters in this election cycle.
These may seem like small numbers, but consider how few Iowans actually caucus. Since 2000, Republican caucuses have averaged 90,000 participants. The 2008 Democratic caucuses saw a record 239,000 participants. Usually, caucus turnout is around 5 to 10 percent of registered voters.
"I'd be surprised if some candidates didn't purposefully introduce themselves to that constituency," says David Oman, a longtime figure in the state's Republican politics. "We have 18 people running. To do well, a very modest plurality is all one needs. We may have a winner with 20 percent."
It's fitting then that Oman, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1998 and was Gov. Terry Branstad's chief of staff, was just brought on as a top adviser for Jeb Bush in Iowa. He understands that a pitch for the Latino vote here is more than just a passing mention at a campaign stop, or saying that you value the Latino vote, or even answering a town hall question in Spanish.
There's a well-known rule among Iowa caucus-goers: You have to personally ask for their support. Latinos don't have a history of caucusing, and the reason is the same: because no one asked them.
Rob Barron thinks he may have found a solution.
Barron, a Des Moines School Board member who was a state staff director for former Sen. Tom Harkin, just helped launch a new organization called the Latino Political Network that will encourage and train Latinos to run for office throughout Iowa. There are 7,400 elected offices in the state. Latinos occupy around a dozen of those seats. Even with 165,000 Latinos in Iowa, no Latino has even been elected to the state legislature or been on the ballot for federal or statewide office.
As abysmal as Latino representation is in the state, so too is Latino participation in the caucuses. Sure, Barron sees the activists with nuanced opinions willing to participate in the next caucus. But the restaurant owners and the shift workers across the state probably won't. By encouraging more Latinos to run for office, which would bring more Latinos out to vote for local races, Barron thinks that over time more Latinos may begin to caucus.
"What's the best entry point to getting them to vote?" Barron says. "Well, 'I know that person. I like that person. I recognize something of me in that person.' "
Consider Barron's election in 2013, which he won by just 28 votes. If you can get someone who has never voted before to vote for a school board member on the second Tuesday of September in an odd year, there's a decent chance you can get them to vote two months later in a city race or a year later in a big federal or state race. Now, you have taken away those barriers and shown them how to vote again. They know where their polling place is and the ballot process no longer intimidates them.