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Signs of GOP’s Latino Evolution

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

For the Republican Party, the 2012 election was not simply about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. When the dust cleared, Republicans witnessed that they not only lost the Presidential race, but their party was effectively squeezed out of major voting blocks.

From women, to young people, to Latinos, the GOP saw major downward trends in every group across the board. While far from united in what to do about it, it does seem that some Republican elected leaders are bound and determined to make some progress with Latino voters.

Recently, three signs of this determination have shown themselves.

The first sign was the group of Republican senators willing to stand behind the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform proposals. Those proposals are far from becoming reality, but the fact that they are getting Republican support from the beginning, shows serious evolution on the issue.

The second sign was the announcement that Sen. Marco Rubio will provide the Republican response to the State of the Union speech this week. As crazy as it sounds, it will be the very first time that a Latino provides this reaction for the Republicans.

And the third sign, on a more local level, was Rep. Mike Coffman’s changing stance on immigration, announcing to an audience over the weekend that he is in favor of a path to citizenship for children of immigrants and finding legal status for illegal immigrants. This may not seem like a major difference, but this is a change of mind from a politician that as recently as two years ago endorsed a proposal to have all ballots in Colorado in English.

By themselves, none of these events are a major headline. However, taken as a collective, it is clear that at least some Republicans are looking to compete with Democrats for the votes of Latinos in 2014.

If the immigration question, and the various reactions to the issue, can be somewhat resolved, the Republican Party should be able to compete well for this group of voters. It would be wise for Democrats to not underestimate the attraction of a more conservative platform to a group of voters that have the highest percentage of Catholics among any measurable large group of voters.

That all being said, this evolution has only begun and will only need the words of a few GOP knuckleheads to derail it. We saw how quickly the 2012 election turned into a battle to define the effect of rape and incest on women’s bodies.

We should also remember that Latinos do not vote as a single bloc. Latino voters are as diverse as any other group. Merely beginning to talk about immigration and showcasing a Latino U.S. Senator will not, by itself, sway a majority of voters.

However, if these signs are part of a trend and not anomalies, we may see a far more competitive drive for Latino voters in 2014.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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