Republican Candidates Face Uphill Battle with Latino Voters

As the Republican primaries shift over to the Western United States, many candidates will be fighting an uphill battle to attract Latino voters. Jesse Gutierrez, who runs a conservative network called Nevada Latinos for Prosperity, says “There needs to be a little more outreach, a little more education and a softer approach to immigration. The Democrats take them for granted, and the Republicans don't do anything about it.” This February, the Republican candidates have a chance to either repel or win-over Latinos in Nevada and Arizona. Latinos, many of whom are socially and fiscally conservative and should find the GOP appealing, are key to winning elections in these 2 swing states. Ron Paul recently demonstrated that courting the Latino vote may be harder than originally thought. At a particular event, when speaking to 150 Las Vegas Latinos, Ron Paul’s comments of condemning Latino scapegoating and speaking against legal residency through the Dream Act, upset many of the leaders of the group that hosted him. President of Hispanics in Politics, Fernando Romero said “I was basically stunned, to be honest with you. His reasoning ... was somewhat astonishing.” Western Latino voters from New Mexico to California are much more concerned with candidates’ immigration policy, and far less likely to vote Republican than the voters courted in Florida. Stanford University professor Gary Segura said “The Western Latino electorate is overwhelmingly Mexican-American and overwhelmingly Democratic. Their participation in Republican caucuses tends to be low. Those who do participate tend to be moderate.” This, however, might make attempting to court Latino voters less of an issue, since most of the Latino voters will not be participating in the Republican primaries. While potentially unimportant for the primaries, the issues Western Latinos find important will be crucial come November. 67% of Latinos nationwide identify themselves as Democrat, and 20% are Republican. The real question is how the middle 13% will vote. Segura mentions “That's a bigger swing than any other ethnic group in the United States.” Candidates must stick with their promised policies, but they much also figure out a way to spin their promises on volatile issues such as immigration, or face alienating Latino voters, and costing themselves the election.