Opinion: What the GOP must do to win the Latino vote
By: JAVIER ORTIZ, GUEST COLUMNIST
Just a few weeks ago, I read about President Obama’s trip to the Midwest in his Canada-made, U.S. taxpayer-funded bus and pondered what the Republican Party would need to do to bring Latino voters out in force in 2012.
The more I thought about the issues and messages, the clearer it became to me that for all its complexity, turning out Latinos to support the GOP was really pretty straight forward: talk pocket-book issues.
Latinos all around the country are facing daunting economic challenges. As of July, the unemployment rate among Hispanics was at a staggering 11.3 percent. This certainly doesn’t address the number of Latinos who are underemployed, which is significantly higher.
And the future outlook for Latinos certainly seems troubled, as Latino students are dropping out of high school at an overwhelming rate of 17.6 percent. These problems are compounded by the fact that the Obama administration has given no indication that they have a handle on the medley of problems that the country faces and economic recovery doesn’t seem like it is possible in the near term.
The current state of America has shaken the Latino population and all Americans to our core. Latino families carefully monitor the news looking for some semblance of financial stability. Many are living paycheck to paycheck weary of what tomorrow may bring.
At the end of the day, Latinos are faced with a harsh reality brought about by a frozen economy and ask themselves, what future does our country hold for our children?
And that is not a question only Latinos are asking; in fact, Americans all across the country are asking themselves the very same thing.
It’s important to make very clear that Latinos are worried about the very same issues as all other Americans. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center showed, like most other Americans, a majority of Latinos believed that the economy is currently the most important issue.
That is because Latinos – just like every other American – are not looking for government handouts, instead searching for meaningful opportunities and a chance to achieve the American Dream.
For Republicans to win the Latino vote, they must embrace this reality. GOP candidates need a direct message and plan of engagement where economic policies that reduce America’s debts, bring us back to prosperity and create jobs are communicated. Latinos will enthusiastically embrace such a vision and stand with the candidate who delivers it.
The party that wins the Latino vote in 2012 will not necessarily be the party that wins the argument on issues like immigration or government assistance programs, rather Latinos will vote for the candidate who offers the most formidable economic solutions.
The Party of Lincoln has a real opportunity to make gains with Latinos because its fiscal policies line up well with the entrepreneurial and hardworking spirit of this community.
To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan, Latinos are Republicans, many just don’t know it yet. It is the job of Republican candidates to bridge that divide.
Javier Ortiz is a Republican political strategist and business consultant. He is a Founding Associate Member of the National Conference of Hispanic Legislators and serves as an advisor to the Hispanic Leadership Fund. Ortiz is a contributor to Univision News’s English-language portal.