Latino issues are at the top of the agenda at the largest gathering of conservative politicians and activists in yet another sign of how Republicans are struggling to attract a demographic group that is critical to their electoral future.
“I’m committed, as head of the Conservative Union, that Latinos issues are going to be presented,” said Al Cardenas, a Cuban-American who is head of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference. “We need to celebrate this diversity.”
For the first time in the conference’s history, a Latino, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, will deliver the keynote address at CPAC. Past CPAC keynote speakers include Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Allen West and Sarah Palin. The conference’s opening speaker this year will be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
“We need to commit a total immersion in the Latino community,” said Cardenas.
It’s no coincidence that Latino politicians such as Rubio, who has been at the forefront of recent immigration reform talks on Capitol Hill, are being thrust into such prominent roles this year.
“We need to showcase how widespread conservatives are in the Latino movement,” said Cardenas.
Dr. Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, believes CPAC has made a move in the right direction if it wants to attract Latino voters and their growing fundraising muscle.
“It tells me that the message of the 2012 election has been received loud and clear,” said Sabato. “[This is] a good start. You gather your Latino office holders together and find out through them what their community needs and wants from politics.”
The conference currently has a list of 15 Latinos participating in panels and speaking at the event, including Rubio, Cruz and Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho.