Population shifts and the growth of the numbers of future Hispanic voters will realign American politics. Several groups and organizations are expanding their “Latino outreach” programs to communicate with Hispanic voters to earn a larger slice of the Hispanic vote for Republican candidates.
But what is Latino outreach and will it work? Latino outreach that works means electing more Republican Hispanic candidates to office, plain and simple, and watching them succeed.
Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico today boasts a 65% approval rating statewide. Her job approval rating among Hispanic voters (62%) nearly matches that among white voters (68%).
But it wasn’t always this way… In 2010, then-candidate Martinez fought for the Hispanic vote. Throughout the election, Hispanic women were particularly difficult to attract with their stronger Democrat leanings, but persistence and sincere messaging won out. Martinez ended up carrying 41% of the Hispanic vote, compared to the 31% of McCain just two years earlier.
What is noteworthy is how her support has grown since she has taken office….
Today, 60% of Hispanic men and 64% of Hispanic women approve of the job Martinez is doing as governor. She didn’t get their votes simply because she shared their cultural identity. But she did earn their respect and support once elected. It’s a process of building trust and confidence. Today, 86% of Hispanic New Mexicans believe Governor Martinez is honest; 79% say she cares for average New Mexicans; 77% believe she is a strong leader, and; 74% say she puts common sense ahead of her party’s interests.
Her style and approach to governing has lifted her in the eyes of Hispanic voters. Her intolerance for corruption, no-nonsense approach to spending, and unrelenting approach to education reform has won her the support of many Hispanic voters. A sample of open-ended comments from Hispanic Democrats in New Mexico:
“I think she has kept her promises as far as illegal immigration. I know from people who work at the state, they are having to work harder to get money. She is trying to fix the economy.”
“She’s getting more jobs for New Mexicans. And she is helping the children with schooling.”
“Big change from corrupt Bill Richardson. Pay to play scandals. Campaign scandals. Every scandal known to man. She is doing a good job. She has cut state government workers, the budget, unnecessary spending. She removed cap and trade and removed all the past Administration political [appointees] from office and state government.”
“That she is a strong person. She’s dedicated to helping the people of New Mexico. To find jobs and balance the budget.”
“Her guts that’s cleaning up the state level. She’s doing a good job of reorganizing and cracking down on useless expenses. I think she is doing a good job.”
If Republicans want to earn the votes of Hispanics, then we must elect Hispanic leaders to set the example. We can fund Spanish ads, put up Spanish-language websites, and hold Hispanic “events.” But these are only weak substitutes for doing what really matters … electing Republican Hispanic candidates who can be the role models and future leaders of this country.
A quick update on the mood of Hispanic voters as we begin this election year… *
- Over the course of 2011, Obama averaged a 57% approve/35% disapprove rating. Obama won 66% of Hispanic voters to capture his victory in 2008.
- Perceptions of Obama’s handling of the economy continue to slide. Over the course of the 2011 year, 48% approve and 46% disapprove of his economic performance. Over just the last three months of the year, his economic approval dropped to 43%.
- Also over the last three months of the year Hispanic voters expressed higher levels of disappointment, with 66% saying the country is on the wrong track. That’s a significant jump from the 49% who said the country was on the wrong track over the course of 2010.
*All data from NBC/Wall Street Journal national surveys.