Are Dems worried about losing Latinos?

On Friday the Democratic National Committee launched its first presidential ad of the 2012 cycle, and it was in Spanish. In preparation for the 2012 presidential election, it seems both Democrats and Republicans have begun reaching out early to a coveted voting bloc: Los Independiente.

Look no further than Barack Obama’s Monday speech at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy groups. After being chided a week before by the organization’s leader, the President offered hints of support for immigration reform, but was clear about one thing: “The Democrats and your president are with you, don’t get confused about that.”

That statement is reminiscent of the new DNC ad, which will run in the major cities of battleground states featuring significant Latino populations. And Obama’s self-assured sentiment was echoed by Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio, who said during a Friday press conference promoting the new Spanish-language ad: “Hispanics’ priorities are not Republican priorities.”

Apart from the GOP, there is another group that may disagree with the confident statements of Democrats: Latino voters themselves.

“The DNC leadership and their spokespeople can say whatever they want about Latinos but the reality is Latino organizations are not happy with Obama,” Bettina Inclan, a Republican political strategist who blogs extensively on conservative Latino issues, told The Daily Caller. “You have the National Council of La Raza saying that Democrats have to woo Latinos more because they realize the broken promises and the horrible economy they’re facing. … I think these political people have to take their head out of the sand and realize what’s going on and the reality is that, the Hispanic vote, the Latino vote, is up for grabs.”

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, echoed that point recently in a Politico op-ed. “Obama had his chance. He raised the hopes of Latinos and then didn’t deliver.” The op-ed, however, came with a caveat. “This doesn’t mean that the majority of Latinos are going to vote Republican. But it does mean that many will consider voting for the Republican candidate.”

That chance came in 2008 when Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote, compared to John McCain’s 31 percent, a margin of almost two-to-one, according to a report released by the Pew Hispanic Center. Although the win for Democrats was slightly above average in their traditional capture of the Latino voting bloc, the ground has shifted in recent years.

In battleground states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, those shifts struck a particular blow against Republicans. Not only did George W. Bush carry Nevada and Colorado in 2004, but he also gained the largest percentage of the Republican Latino voters since Ronald Reagan, about 35 percent, according to an analysis by the American Political Science Association.

The same survey found that one-third of Latino Republicans are former Democrats, a figure that could change as the GOP begins to actively develop Latino and Hispanic bases.

Last week, the Republican State Leadership Committee launched a $3 million initiative aimed at attracting and promoting conservative Latinos running for office. Not that an unofficial intuitive wasn’t already underway: The number of Hispanic Democratic officeholders has decreased by about 2 percent since 2006, while it’s jumped to 22.5 percent for Hispanic Republicans, according to NPR. Thanks to the 210 midterm elections, state-level elected Hispanic Republicans now outnumber corresponding Democrats by a 5-to-3 margin.

As Republicans make a clear and concerted effort to bring Latino voters into the conservative fold, does the DNC’s new ad suggest concern about losing a voting bloc that swung heavily for Barack Obama in 2008?

“This [ad] is nothing more than a strong signal, just how high of a priority Hispanic voters are to this President and to this campaign,” said DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, defending the ad against suggestions that it was a response to Republicans, during a press conference touting the campaign. “And the Hispanic community needs to know the accomplishments.”

Following the release of the ad and Wasserman Schultz’s presentation, the Republican National Committee blasted out its own bit of Latino politicking.