Jim Clark: Opportunities for GOP to gain Latino votes | SierraSun.com

Jim Clark: Opportunities for GOP to gain Latino votes

One of Mitt Romney's election strategies was to get 38 percent of the Latino vote. He ended up getting 21 percent while Barack Obama cruised to reelection with 79 percent.

That may have had something to do with Romney's public statements to the effect that we need to prevent illegal immigrants from being able to work in the US and that illegal immigrants should self-deport.

The national GOP champion for Latino support remains George W. Bush. As Governor of Texas he esteemed and respected Latinos for their work ethic and family values.

As a result, when he ran for national office he garnered 44 percent of the Latino vote. With 50,000 Latinos attaining voting age every month it seems like the GOP is going the wrong way if we ever hope to regain the White House.

However, hope springs eternal. Recent polls by Pew Hispanic Research and Impremedia disclose that new opportunities exist for the GOP to peel off some Latino voters.

It is still not widely known, but since coming to power, the Obama Administration has deported half again as many Latinos as the Bush Administration did.

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When polled on this fact, 40 percent of Latino respondents said that this lowered their enthusiasm for the Democratic Party.

Another remarkable poll result was that Latino voters' approval of Obama fell from 63 percent in September 2013 to 48 percent in March 2014.

A parallel poll result was that Latino voter support for Obamacare fell from 61 percent in September, 2013 to 47 percent in March 2014.

Still another interesting poll result was that small but significant numbers of Latinos have broken away from the Roman Catholic Church.

Some 22 percent of Latinos in the 18 to 49 year age group are now affiliated with evangelical Protestant churches while 18 percent have become unaffiliated.

The correlation between Latino Catholicism and the Democratic Party is very high, but the political persuasion of the breakaway group is not yet known.

All of these trends spell "opportunity" for the GOP if we don't blow it like Romney did. Interestingly, George Bush's brother Jeb, a Presidential hopeful, has recently issued some very pro-Latino pronouncements which have not yet produced any mainstream GOP criticism.

Maybe, just maybe, rank and file Republicans are slowly coming to the conclusion that to be a winning political party we have to be more inclusive.

To seize on this opening we need to examine issues that differentiate us from the Democratic Party. Polling shows that the top four issues with Latino voters are jobs, immigration, health care and education.

Clearly, Republicans can tout their party's historic support of economic growth and free markets as a marked contrast to the stunted, over-regulated low-growth economy that the Obama Administration has produced.

Immigration is currently a mixed bag. The US Senate has passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill which now resides in the GOP-controlled House.

According to Politico, the measure generally has GOP support except for the border security aspect. This is the part they have to get right because Latino voters, like all US voters, want to see an effective provision to keep our border less porous.

On health care, the above-cited polling numbers show that the Obama Administration is playing right into GOP hands. However, it will require a Republican takeover of the Senate and retention of the House to initiate positive GOP amendments to the worse features of Obamacare.

Thanks to the dominance of the teacher union, the Democratic Party is largely anti-choice when it comes to education. They oppose vouchers in any form and are only tepid about charter schools both of which are strong GOP issues.

The future of the GOP with the rapidly growing Latino voter cohort hangs in the balance. It's time for some leadership.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at tahoesbjc@aol.com.