Courting the Latino Vote

Romney taps Barreto to co-chair Hispanic Steering Committee


Small Business Administration's Hector Barreto (R) gets a closer look at metal rods used in tire alignment equipment from Jack Schaffner (L), president of Schaffner Machine Company while Rep.Todd Akin (R-MO) looks on in Berkeley, MO on June 4, 2004. Barreto made the visit to the small machine shop to discuss recent economic data with employees. (UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt)


The importance of the Latino vote becomes more evident in each presidential election. Like other politicians in the past three decades, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recognizes the trend. Recently, he appointed Hector Barreto to co-chair his national Hispanic Steering Committee. This is not a new role for Barreto, who served as an advisor for Pres. George W. Bush.

“The Hispanic vote does not necessarily elect a candidate but it can determine an election, especially in some certain core states,” Barreto explains.

He’s seen this first hand. In 1996, Republican hopeful Bob Dole received roughly 20 percent of the Hispanic vote. About 6 million Hispanic voters went to the polls that year. In 2000 George W. Bush garnered 35 percent of that vote when close to 8 million Hispanic voters cast ballots. Bush got 44 percent with close to 9 million Hispanic voters turning out in 2004. In the last election Hispanic support for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain slipped. McCain received about 30 percent of the close to 10 million Hispanic votes cast.

Not surprisingly key issues for Hispanic voters mirror those of the general U.S. population. “The economy—especially jobs—is an important issue to Hispanic voters,” Barreto says. “Education is also a very significant issue. Healthcare is important. I think this whole conversation about immigration is important as well.”

And he believes Romney is the candidate who can best deliver on these issues in the 2012 election. “I’ve always felt Gov. Romney was the best candidate for the general election in November,” he says. “They’re all qualified and talented and I respect them all but Gov. Romney has so much to offer the Hispanic community.”

Despite Barreto’s support of Romney, he says the election is still very much up for grabs in terms of which candidate will get the Hispanic vote. Across the U.S., Hispanics are largely registered as Democrats but party affiliation isn’t always reflected in the polling place on election day, hence Bush’s strong showing in 2004. This is also true in state and local elections.

“What’s happening across the United States, particularly with Hispanics, many people do not align themselves with any party,” he says.


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