GOP fumbles away Latino votes

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida) is finding out how very painful it is to do Latino outreach for a party that hates Latino immigrants. Martinez was thrilled when Univision, largest Spanish-language U.S. television network and the fifth-largest overall, announced plans for a presidential candidates forum in Florida. He is not so thrilled now, as only ONE Republican candidate, U.S. Senator John McCain, has agreed to partake in the forum. Naturally, all of the Democratic candidates will be there.

“I think that to have candidates address the largest minority group in America would be a terrific thing,” Martinez said in June, according to the Washington Post. Sure, but now we ALL know that the majority of the GOP candidates don’t like Latinos and don’t want to even talk to them. Backfire!

Will the Republicans pay a price for their animosity towards Latinos? “The estimated 41 million Latinos are a force in American politics, and in few states will their decisions be felt more than in Florida. The state is home to an estimated 3 million Hispanics, two-thirds of whom are Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans and Latin Americans, who lean Democratic, and the other third are Cubans, who lean Republican.”

But wait – there’s more! “The Republican hopefuls snubbed two other high-profile Hispanic conferences — the first held by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the biggest gathering of the Latino political class, in late June, and the second by the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights group, in late July. The Democratic candidates showed up for both events.”

“In politics, perception is reality. And in the past two years, the perception among Hispanics — not just Hispanics who are undocumented but also those who were born and raised here — is that they and their family are not welcome in the GOP. And that perception may stick,” said Roberto Suro, founder and former director of the Pew Hispanic Center, the Washington-based nonpartisan research group.

It appears to me that the GOP has lost whatever Latino votes that President George W. Bush brought to the table four years ago. This has long term implications for the red party. Take a look at national demographics – Latinos are having a lot more children than most Americans. Our votes will eventually be a huge key to victory for presidential candidates, even more than now. And despite Martinez’ efforts, I would bet my house that most U.S. Latinos won’t be voting Republican.

“To be frank, every day Martinez’s job is to put lipstick on a pig. It’s not a pretty job, but he took it, and now he’s got to live with it,” added Simon Rosenberg, who has studied the Latino electorate and runs the New Democrat Network, a think tank.

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