After a second place finish in the New Hampshire primaries, Ron Paul will take his campaign to South Carolina, bypass the Florida primaries, and head to Nevada where he hopes to get a head start in the push to garner Latino support in one of the recession’s hardest hit states.
The Nevada Caucus on February 4th, and the Florida primary on January 31st, will mark the first time that Hispanic Republicans will get their shot to significantly weigh in on the race for the GOP nominee --a point that has not been lost on the Paul campaign – which launched its Hispanics for Ron Paul National Coalition in an effort to organize Latino volunteers in states like Nevada, Colorado, and Washington.
According to the Paul campaign, they reportedly will bypass Florida because of the huge cost of advertising and campaigning in the state - which his campaign estimated to be about $9 million to compete for the state's winner-takes-all 50 delegates. Instead, Paul’s Hispanic Outreach campaign continues pushing hard to win Republican Latinos in Nevada. Just over 9% of Nevada's voter population is Latino.
“We’ve been working with several newspapers in the area, English and Spanish language local affiliates, and are focused on bringing out the Hispanic vote in Nevada for Dr. Paul,” said Fernando Cortes, the Deputy Controller and Director of the Ron Paul campaign's Hispanic Outreach Program. Cortes, 28, controls 5 staffers in the coalition and 20 “mostly bilingual” volunteers thus far who are set to meet on a Saturday afternoon in Henderson, Nevada on January 14th to put in place an outreach strategy directed specifically to Latino voters in Nevada.
Cortes believes that Paul is running the strongest Hispanic outreach of all the GOP campaigns so far. Cortes points to the campaign’s Hispanos Por Ron Paul Facebook page – that has nearly 700 fans - Paul’s Hispanic Outreach YouTube channel that includes campaign advertisements subtitled in Spanish, and poll data as prime indicators that Paul is the go-to GOP Latino candidate.
Our long term goal is to convert the Latino community. To get them to start advocating for liberty.
- Fernando Cortes, Director of Hispanic Outreach for Ron Paul
According to a Public Policy Poll published in December, Paul has the highest favorability rate with Hispanics among the GOP candidates at 51%. That poll included Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Romney.
“Outside of Mitt Romney working with past allies in Florida," Cortes said. "I don’t really see any campaign or candidate doing any specific outreach in this specific primary cycle."
Cortes maps out a three phase plan for Nevada he thinks will help bring Latino support to Paul’s side. The plan starts with identifying and addressing likely Latino Republican voters, secondly getting more disgruntled Latino Democrats to register Republican, and thirdly to educate Latinos on free trade and the Constitution – issues that are at the forefront of the Paul campaign.
“Immigration will not be the biggest issue. The biggest issue that appeals to Latino voters, for the same reasons it appeals to anyone, is a common economic and foreign policy, balanced budgets, and fiscal sanity. That resonates with all people,” Cortes said.
Cortes believes jobs is the number one issue for Latinos in the United States, and believes Paul’s economic policy can attract Democrat and Independent Latino voters to vote Republican this year. Nationally, 67% of Hispanic registered voters say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 20% say the same about the Republican party, according to a Pew Hispanic Center Survey.
“A lot of the Hispanic community has their own mind set on what a Republican candidate stands for," Cortes said. "One of our objectives is to present Dr. Paul for what he is."
Ariel González, 32, of Las Vegas, Nevada is a second generation Mexican American, who converted from an independent voter to a registered Republican in 2008. He is now a Paul volunteer for the Hispanic Outreach campaign and acknowledges the tough task that lies before them to introduce their candidate to a Latino population that knows very little of him.
“It’s a really hard sell because of the immigration issue and because his positions take a little bit of explaining,” González told Fox News Latino.“I try to stay away from immigration.”
Paul wants to end automatic birthright citizenship and is against the Federal DREAM Act, but has also said publicly that he does not believe that the deportation of the 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants already here is a viable alternative, and favors assimilation into the society without specifying the mechanisms.
Regardless, "Hispanos Por Ron Paul" believes that given enough face-time on Spanish television and with Latino voters their candidate’s economic recovery plan would resonate loud enough - especially in a state like Nevada.
Nevada continues to top the nation in unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcy rates. However, there are signs of improvement including the state’s unemployment rate which has gone from above 14% to just above 13% in the past year.
But whether or not Republican candidates such as Paul can get enough Latino support in a general election despite their tough stances on immigration remains to be seen. The last time Nevada's Latino voters were put to the test was in 2010 when Senator Harry Reid and Republican Sharron Angle went head to head. Latinos overwhelmingly voted against Angle, who had touted a tough immigration policy, by nearly 9 to 1.
For now, the Paul camp will begin its major push for Latino hearts and minds modestly in a gathering in Henderson, Nevada at a campaign headquarters on Saturday. But don't be fooled by their modest meeting: Their expectations are high.
“Our long term goal is to convert the Latino community,” Cortes explained. “To get them to start advocating for liberty.”
Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC) and a reporter for Fox News Latino (FNL).
Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.