An eye popping headline on NPR’s website discussed the GOP strategically recruiting candidates and supporting the elections of Latinos in states like New Mexico, Florida and Nevada – all states won by Obama in 2008 – with the goal of shifting the loyalty of Latinos voters, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups nationwide. With an estimated 12 million registered voters (up from 9.7 million in 2008) looking for either party to convince them that their candidates will be the voice of their interests, Hispanics have been labeled as the “game-changer” constituency for 2012. The article goes on to say:
Since 2006, the number of Hispanic Democratic officeholders has shrunken by nearly 2 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic Republicans in office has increased 22.5 percent. Hispanic Republican candidates have been especially successful in the kind of targeted, high-profile elections — for Congress and governor — that could influence the 2012 presidential contest. And in statewide offices, Republican Latinos now outnumber Democrats.
But once you get past the spin and look at the graph based on figures from the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) revealed later, you can see that the number of Democratic Hispanic representatives dwarf those who identify as Republicans 1380 to 158. To clarify things further, a recent Pew poll showed Republicans only making gains with whites voters and actually losing support among Hispanics which could suggest that many of the state level anti-immigrant policy bills being pushing by GOP legislators could be eroding any goodwill earned. Both the DNC and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads have began to take their pitch to the airwaves with Spanish-language television spots as the media begins to focus more on 2012. (see both ads below)
What’s the big take away ? Maybe the decrease of 25 Democratic legislators to the gain of 25 for the GOP over the last four years tells us complacency could become our own worst enemy. We can’t assume that because we are the party that is typically associated with social and economic equity our messaging is still being accepted as truth in the Hispanic community. During a period where the community has endured higher levels of unemployment than the national average and witnessed two major pushes – The Dream Act and National Immigration Reform – stalled in Congress, Democratic leaders in state and local parties should take these cues seriously. In the end, without state and county parties visibly doing more to recruitment Hispanic candidates, hire bilingual field staff, increase voter registration in low turnout communities and push our Democrats in office to make legislation important to the Hispanic community a top priority, we can very well be on the verge of a electoral problem.
DNC’s Spanish-TV AD “En quien confiar” (Who to trust)
America Crossroads AD Spanish-TV “Despertarse” (Wakeup)