The ever elusive Hispanic Vote: Will it even matter to Cruz and Rubio?

There are two Hispanic Americans campaigning for the GOP nomination for the presidency, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. They have many similarities; they are both US senators, Cruz from Texas and Rubio from Florida. Both are sons of Cuban immigrants, both are 44 years of age and both are social conservatives. From all indications these two men will rise to the top 10 contenders list.

Regardless of whoever seizes the GOP nomination, their struggle will be for the ever elusive Hispanic vote. Statistics are hard to dismiss in an ever growing Hispanic population. Mitt Romney lost in 2012 and left a trail of devastated Republicans wondering why. Much has been said about the 3 million Evangelicals that did not participate in the election process, but what about the fact that he only garnered 27% of the Hispanic vote and Barack Obama won with 71%. John McCain lost to Obama in 2008 with 31% of the Hispanic vote. GW Bush won in 2000 with 35% and in 2004 with 40% of the Hispanic vote.

Because Cruz and Rubio are both Americans with Cuban backgrounds does not mean they think the same in all matters. In fact, Rubio is fluent in Spanish and Cruz is not. But for those that believe these Americans should ‘perform’ using the language of their fathers, let me remind you that not all second or third generation Hispanics speak Spanish. I might add that Mark Halperin’s interview with Cruz could have been a total disaster if Cruz had not handled it with such class and diplomacy. Halperin should now ask all the presidential candidates to say something in the language of their immigrant fathers. See how absurd that is?

The upcoming debates will make clear as to how they stand on issues but the pressing situation is still the Hispanic vote and who they will favor. Cruz has always insisted that the border must be secured and Rubio since his Gang of Eight departure has made it a point that he too wants the border secured but the difference comes when deciding what to do with the illegals crossing our borders. Cruz takes a hard stance that there should not be any ‘path to citizenship’ for any illegal breaking our laws and is against amnesty. Cruz has been accused of being so hard on illegals that he lacks the compassion to be president, but Cruz is a man who has the ability to show both compassion and to stand strong on what he believes to be true. Take for instance the letter he sent to Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Secretary US Department of Health and Human Services in March concerning the treatment, care and processing of unaccompanied alien children, UAC. He totally understands the nature of the situation and the danger of continuing to keep our borders 'open.'

In an effort to win the Hispanic vote Cruz stood in front of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC in April and commented that, "I think the Hispanic community is a fundamentally conservative community. If you look at the values that resonate in our community, they're faith, family, patriotism, hard work. Now if you want people to work their fingers to their bone, hard work, you'll have Hispanic men and women lining up to work hard to provide for their families. Those are all conservative values." At this point it’s hard to tell where Rubio stands regarding the supposedly 11 million illegals presently in the USA. As the former member of the Gang of Eight, he strongly favored a ‘path to citizenship’. He managed to distance himself from the Gang of Eight but not without doing some damage to his political career. Memories fade and it could be that Rubio’s waffling on immigration reform vanishes by 2016. When he launched his bid for the presidency he made his first appeal for the Hispanic vote by quoting his Cuban born father, “En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr las cosas que nosotros no pudimos,” translation, “In this country you will be able to achieve all the things we never could.”

There is another assessment of the Hispanic vote which is, that the GOP doesn’t need it to win. Nate Cohn in his article for the New York Times, "Hispanic Voters are Important for Republicans, but Not Indispensable," put it simply, “The Republicans have a path to the White House without Hispanic voters. It’s just a harder one.”

Steve Munisteri, former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, in an article written by Bill Lambrecht, "Koch-backed group gearing up in Texas for 2015" commented that, “Republicans can’t win unless we have an overall increase in the minority vote. And you can’t just come around at election time. Unless you spend money on outreach and engagement, it’s all talk.”

The upcoming 2016 presidential election is already proving to be a very crowded arena, leaving little room for any misstep by the Republican candidates. The Hispanic vote is up for grabs to all presidential candidates and the candidate that can muster that segment of the electorate will be adding voters to his assets. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center graph, Republicans have to collect 40% of the Hispanic vote to win the White House in 2016.

Cruz’ strengths are that he is courageous, unflappable and can energize his supporters. His knowledge of the US Constitution is undeniable. Rubio leans on his strongest strengths, his charisma and the passion he pours into his speeches. Fox News will host the first Republican candidate presidential debate in August and will limit it to the top 10 candidates.

With the 2016 election coming at a fast pace in less than 18 months, the question remains, can the Republicans capture the Hispanic vote in 2016?

Sonja Harris
Pray, Fight, NEVER GIVE UP!


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