Caucus voters in Iowa will cast their ballots for the Republican presidential nominee in just over a week. A week after that, it's the first presidential primary in New Hampshire. Candidates are on bus tours, town hall meetings and hitting the airwaves with a barrage of ads. But what are candidates doing to reach a growing and possibly critical block of voters in the 2012 election – Latinos?
Matt Barreto, a pollster with Latino Decisions said that Latinos are increasingly important to candidates.
"It's the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. And we find that that concentration is happening in very important battleground states," he said.
Ad War Over Latino Voters
There was a bit of an ad war this summer that started when Crossroads GPS, run by Karl Rove's conservative group, launched a Spanish language TV ad featuring a women saying she has trouble sleeping at nights. She says she supported President Obama, but is now worried because things have gotten worse since he was elected.
Barreto says that Republicans are trying to capitalize on the president's slipping approval ratings, which have also been falling among Latinos.
"Republicans were trying to take advantage of that and say hey look, we know you voted in high numbers for Obama, but he hasn't delivered on some of his promises... how effective [the crossroads GPS ad] was remains to be seen," he said.
The Democratic National Committee countered that ad with a commercial featuring a narrator who says "behind the ads that pretend to care about our children, it's the Republicans who would end the Medicare guarantee while protecting tax cuts for the rich."
Republicans and the Economy
Matt Barreto said that Latinos are feeling the affects of the down economy, but it hasn't translated to more support of Republicans.
"Latino voters are still telling us routinely.. that they blame the policies of Bush more than the policies of Obama for the current problems. And also that they trust the Democratic party more than they trust the Republican party to fix the economy," he said.
"The Republicans still have a lot of work to do connecting with Latino voters," Matt Barreto said.
GOP Presidential Candidates And Immigration
The Republicans have been focusing on middle class white voters and Barreto says that if anything they're alienating Hispanic voters with ads about cracking down on illegal immigration or making English the official language.
"This is all sending the wrong message to the Hispanic community that you're not welcome, that you're not a part of this party. And so Republicans, at this point, are really backpedaling and we haven't seen much in terms of direct outreach," Barreto said.
- Matt Barreto, a pollster with the research organization Latino Decisions
This segment aired on December 26, 2011.