A Republican group that includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday night kicked off its efforts to improve the party’s outreach to Hispanic voters, many of whom have criticized Republicans for using harsh rhetoric to attack illegal immigration.
The new Hispanic Action Network is holding a policy conference featuring several well-known Republican speakers. It will focus on issues such as trade, immigration, media outreach and education.
Bush, who met his Mexican-born wife Columba when he taught English in her homeland, said the party needs to become more engaged in the Hispanic community — and not just during election years.
“Typically what happens in politics is you’re working hard and you say, ‘Oh gosh, we better start working at campaigning in the Hispanic community,’ and it’s like Sept. 15,” he told the crowd Thursday night. “This is not about politics. This is about the conservative cause. If you look over the horizon over the next 10 or 20 years…without an active involvement of Hispanics, we will not be the governing philosophy.”
The group is among a growing number of Republican organizations reaching out to Hispanics in advance of next year’s presidential election. It is backed by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, whose American Action Network funneled more than $30 million in campaign funds to Republicans in about 30 congressional races last year.
With the Latino population growing in swing states such as Nevada, Colorado and Florida, Republicans need to chip away at Hispanics’ overall 2-1 preference for Democrats to have any hope of capturing the presidency.
Democrats are confident their party’s efforts on health care, education and the economy will appeal to Hispanic voters, whom they believe have been turned off by some of the GOP tactics.