GOP 2012 Hopefuls Turning Their Back On Hispanic Voters?
Inexplicably, most of the potential GOP candidates for President in 2012 are turning down an offer to appear at a political conference aimed at appealing to Hispanic voters:
It was billed, in part, as a forum for the 2012 Republican presidential field to speak directly to Hispanics — a replica of the vaunted Conservative Political Action Conference, but tailored to the fastest-growing slice of the electorate.
Yet, when former Gov. Jeb Bush, former Sen. Norm Coleman and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez open the first Hispanic Leadership Network conference next month in Miami, the only potential presidential candidate confirmed to attend — so far — is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney declined the invite. So did South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Texas Gov Rick Perry.
Newt Gingrich is “amenable” to attending but hasn’t committed yet, his spokesman said.
And others in the group, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, didn’t respond to inquiries from POLITICO.
A poor showing could raise doubts about the commitment of Republicans to court Hispanics, one of the open-ended questions of the 2012 presidential cycle.
Jim Landry, spokesman for the American Action Network, which created the Hispanic group, said the organizers extended invites to the entire presidential field, but it was never the main reason for holding the conference.
The confirmed speakers includes Pawlenty, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott, Republican powerbroker Fred Malek and former Bush adviser Dana Perino, who will address immigration, media, messaging, jobs, trade and education.
“It’s an Hispanic forum, it’s not a presidential forum,” Landry said. “We would really like to keep the focus on reaching out to the Hispanic community and communicating the center-right message. That aspect was never really the focus of our agenda.”
Nonetheless, it isn’t a good sign of the willingness of these candidates to appear to the fastest growing minority group in the country, and one that is becoming a powerful voting bloc in California, Texas, and Florida, which account for 122 Electoral Votes under the new Census apportionment.