Last week, both Presidential candidates addressed the National Association of Latino Elected/Appointed Officials (NALEO).
President Obama had just recently taken the drastic step of issuing an Executive Order supporting the “Dreamers”, immigrant children. The details are complicated but suffice it to say that it primarily addresses children who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and have no criminal record. “Dreamers” is used to refer to immigrant children who have mostly attended school in the U.S. and even college but then are unable to work due to their status. Obama’s Executive Order will bolster their opportunities.
Romney addressed the convention as well and did not engage in the usual anti-immigrant rhetoric that might be heard at Republican gatherings and certainly not the hyperbole he used against Texas Governor Rick Perry in the primary.
Why are these candidates pandering to this audience? It is not so much about the 2012 election as the future. While the Latino vote is relevant in many states for 2012, it will not be the make or break vote this year. However, population numbers reflect that the Latino vote will become ultimately powerful. As Latinos immerse deeper into the American culture, their numbers will enable them to become a powerful voice and voting block.
Both political parties are fighting to become the one that is friendly to Latinos. All pundits know that the tidal wave is coming and they are trying to position their leaders and their philosophies as being in alignment with the Latino community.
In the Republican Primary for U.S. Senator in Texas, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is battling Ted Cruz (of Cuban descent). Dewhurst speaks Spanish and lived in Latin America for a time. Cruz is a fully assimilated Latino and speaks little Spanish. Dewhurst has taken the unusual step of challenging Cruz to a debate in Spanish. Oddly, this is likely to have little effect in the Republican July Primary run-off and Cruz did not accept.
Voters can expect to see many more of these type antics as the season progresses. The debates will rage on and the “my Latino friendliness is better than yours” positioning will continue.