In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. That dropped to less than one in three for John McCain in 2008. In last year’s election, only a little more than one in four Hispanics voted for Mitt Romney.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
It’s a downward trend that the Republican Party wants to stop.
This week the Republican National Committee started hiring state and field directors in different states, including Texas, to increasingly engage the Hispanic community.
Jennifer Sevilla Korn is the RNC’s national director for Hispanic Initiatives. She spoke at a news conference announcing the new Texas staff in Houston.
“What’s different about what this effort is, is it’s long term and it’s permanent. So the hires that we have are coming in six months before an election and we’re not going to leave after the election is over. This is a permanent presence in the Hispanic community. Going door to door, doing phone banking, going to community events and ensuring that we’re communicating our message but they’re also listening to the concerns of the Hispanic community.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is one of the Republican candidates running for governor, says more and more Latinos are switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party because in their hearts they know that they’re Republicans.
“And the reason is because we’re so naturally aligned on so many issues. Commitment to family, deeply held religious beliefs, better education that leads to better job opportunities, and job-creating policies that help the pocketbooks of everybody in the state of Texas.”
And the RNC’s Jennifer Korn says the number of Hispanic small business owners is the fastest-growing in the country.
“So they’re facing overregulation, overtaxation and so they’re entrepreneurs and they want to be freed from the regulation.”
But the problem for Republicans may be that in other important issues, Hispanics align much more with the Democratic Party. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute finds more than seven in 10 Hispanics think the government should do more to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. And on the issue of gay marriage, many more Latinos support it than oppose it.
Another obstacle in Republicans quest for the Hispanic vote is immigration reform. Two-thirds of Latinos support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
University of Houston political science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus says there are some moderate Republicans that support comprehensive reform.
“At the same time then you’ve got some national level Republicans who are very visible, who are making counter-claims to say that none of these things are viable and we shouldn’t be doing any of it.”
He says in that regard, the Republican Party needs to find common ground internally before they can successfully court the Hispanic community.