The narrative is well known: Hispanics are poised to influence the outcome of this year’s congressional and presidential election. The argument is predicated on Hispanic growth in a number of “swing states,” including North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and New Mexico, to name a few.
Despite the abysmal unemployment number among Hispanics, recent polling suggests that Hispanics continue to support President Barack Obama by a margin of almost 3 to 1, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey.
Should Republicans write off the Hispanic vote?
The short answer is no, and the reason is that similar polling suggests that despite the conventional wisdom, Hispanics are concerned about more than just immigration reform. They’re also concerned about the sputtering economy, education and even health care.
If Republicans can communicate to Hispanics how they differ from the current administration on improving the economy, there is a real possibility that the president would have to play defense to a constituency that has been generally supportive of his policies. Mitt Romney could accentuate his background as a capable businessman who could right the economic ship.
On immigration, Newt Gingrich could use his support for greater leniency toward those who have immigrated illegally to curry the support of many Hispanics with a keen interest in this deeply emotional issue.
To Hispanic church-goers, including many who are Roman Catholic, Rick Santorum seems to be positioned well to pitch himself as a family man who doesn’t check his faith at the door. This is certainly a quality that would appeal to many Hispanics looking for a leader who makes morality a central tenet of his platform.
Of the remaining Republican presidential hopefuls, Ron Paul could certainly build on his success in gaining throngs of younger voters by tapping into the gold mine of young Hispanics who have never, or seldom, participated in the electoral process.
Although the axiom is overused, it’s hard not to see how historical this year’s presidential election will be for our country. Perhaps more than any other presidential election, a true debate over the size and scope of the federal government and America’s place in the world will drive the conversation as Americans head to the polls.
A good example of the philosophical debate will play out when the Supreme Court renders their decision on the constitutionality of the individual mandate – the lynchpin of the President’s signature health care legislation. Will Hispanic business owners continue to support the president’s health care bill despite the $52 billion cost in new taxes?
Hispanics would do well by flexing their muscles by pressing candidates to respond to a variety of different issues beyond immigration–issues that will ensure prosperity, security and that high standard of living and opportunity that has attracted so many of us to this great country.
Israel Ortega is the Editor of Heritage Libertad, the Spanish-language page of The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Latin Business Today