Republicans are making inroads with Hispanic voters, who in a number of states — including Colorado and Texas — helped fuel the GOP wave in Tuesday's elections and may boost the Republican run for the White House in 2016.
"We had better candidates this year, who were talking about the issues that people care about and doing it in a way that did not alienate any group," Luis Fortuño, former governor of Puerto Rico and a member of the Republican National Committee, told The New York Times.
Citing exit polls, The Times notes that in Colorado's Senate race, conservative Republican Cory Gardner, who ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, campaigned in Hispanic neighborhoods about job creation and smaller government — and generally avoided the hot-button issue of immigration. Latinos make up 14 percent of voters there.
In Texas, where Hispanics represent 17 percent of the electorate, Republican Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote while Democrat Wendy Davis took 55 percent, exit polls showed, The Times reports. In 2010, Republican Gov. Rick Perry had just 38 percent of Latinos, The Times notes.
In Georgia, where Latinos are 4 percent of voters, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal snagged his re-election with 47 percent of Hispanic voters behind him; in the Senate race there, conservative GOP businessman David Perdue got 42 percent of the Latino votes while Democrat Michelle Nunn pulled in 57 percent, exit polls showed.
Kansas GOP incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback netted 47 percent of the Latino vote, compared with Democratic challenger Paul Davis, who got 46 percent, exit polls showed.
The gains are significant, The Times notes: in the 2012 presidential race, GOP nominee Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote while President Barack Obama was re-elected with 71 percent.
One analyst said that in Colorado, at least, Udall badly miscalculated the Hispanic vote.
"It was a real miscalculation by the Udall campaign not to make immigration reform and the lack of movement on that issue part of his campaign," Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told The Times.
But Latino Republicans warned the trend is not a given.
"There is a national trend of Latinos distancing away from the Democrats," Daniel Garza, executive director of the conservative Libre Initiative, told The Times. "Will it continue? It depends entirely on the Republican Party, especially what they do on the issue of immigration."
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