GOP’s New Conference Tries to Woo Latino Voters

Republican leaders meet in Miami today to gauge Latino voters' interests.

By Julianne Hing Jan 13, 2011

It’s become clear that SB 1070 copycats and the talk of attacking birthright citizenship isn’t working to help endear the Republican party to Latinos, and now some within it have decided to try a new tack. A conference, perhaps? The Hispanic Leadership Network is its name, and it’s happening today in Miami as a project of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s.

Bush gathered Republicans and Latinos, and some Latino Republicans to help the GOP figure out what matters to Latinos so the party can win their support, NPR reported today.

The Latino vote is key because the imminent demographic shifts are clear. Latinos will soon be the largest racial group in the country after white people. NPR reports that by 2050 Latinos may be 30 percent of the country. While the Republican response has been to introduce bills that limit immigration and attack the rights of immigrants, some are trying to figure out ways around that. Latino voters have turned away from the Republican party, not over fiscal policy or even many social issues, even though Latinos report that education and jobs issues are chief among their concerns. Latinos break with Republicans chiefly over immigration concerns. NPR reports that in the recent midterms Latinos voted against Republicans 2-1.

Latinos know what’s up. "They’re not fools — they realize that there are those places where they can overplay their hand, and I think the 14th Amendment change is a perfect example of a bridge too far," columnist Ruben Navarrette told NPR. "It’s poison. You play with that, and I am never, ever going be able to go before a group of Hispanic women … and convince them that the Republican Party isn’t anything but a bunch of ogres."

"The challenge, though, is that we have a situation right now where Republicans send out signals that Hispanics aren’t wanted in our party, not by policy so much as by tone," Bush told NPR.

Navarette said that the GOP can conference all it wants, but unless the Republican party stops demonizing immigrants they’ll never win another president in the country again. But such threats seem premature. The demographic shifts are definitely on their way–experts estimate that every year for the next 20 years 500,000 Latino youth will reach voting age, but they just feel a long way off now. And so far immigration restrictionists, except for some important exceptions, haven’t had to pay a price for their anti-immigrant rhetoric and the policies its lead to–or killed–in the process.