GOP Sees Opening, Hispanic Vote Up for Grabs
WASHINGTON -- Hispanic voters are being faced with a pretty big decision: Should they continue supporting President Barack Obama or should they explore the Republican presidential field?
The national landscape is changing. According to the 2010 census, Hispanics made up more than half of the country's population growth.
Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky saw their Latino populations nearly double in the last decade.
Minorities will also likely become the majority population in California, New Mexico, and Texas.
By 2050, researchers say the majority of the country will be comprised of minorities, with Hispanics making up nearly 30 percent of the population.
"You've seen Hispanics moving to many places around the country, not just the Southeast, but also the upper Midwest places like Iowa and Nebraska," Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said. "But we've also seen population growth in places like Alaska and Hawaii."
Historically, Latinos vote Democratic, a party they feel has been more sympathetic to their causes. However, Republicans don't believe Democrats have a lock on the Latino voting bloc.
"Even though more than the majority identify as Democrats, when you ask about the specific issues, they all trend conservative… issues of the economy, smaller government, even religion," explained Jennifer S. Korn, executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network.
And given the poor economy, Hispanics are hurting. The unemployment rate in the Latino community is about 11 percent.
"Right now we need to get this jobs plan going," Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told CBN News. "This will help 25 million Latinos just in terms of tax credits and getting people back to work."
While the majority of Latinos supported President Obama in the last election, it's a much different political climate now.
"They're very disappointed and even Democrats and liberal Hispanics are very disappointed with the president as well," Korn said.
The White House recently held a forum on American Latino heritage.
"We know life hasn't always been easy for Latinos in this country, and still isn't. The land of opportunity hasn't always been the land of acceptance," President Obama said at the event.
He also spoke to the National Council of LaRaza in July saying, "We're still climbing out of a vicious recession, and that recession hit Latino families especially hard."
In May, Obama addressed attendees at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast.
"And when you lend your voice to the cause of immigration reform, I am listening," he said.
And while polls show that immigration doesn't top the list of Hispanic concerns, Latinos are looking closely at how both sides are handling this issue.
Evangelicals are too.
"Churches have an obligation and a responsibility to help people, and I don't think we should be held accountable for asking for green card status before we provide food or shelter or counseling to those who find themselves in need," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said.