Rick Perry may have tough time swaying Latino voters

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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As speculation swirls that Texas Gov. Rick Perry may enter the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the Miami Herald reports he may have difficulty attracting Latino voters.

Yesterday in San Antonio, Perry addressed the 28th annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The governor’s speech made mention both of his record of appointing Hispanics and his economic achievement as the state’s executive. And though he received polite applause, the mood was tense.

(Perry joke about Jose Cuervo falls flat at Latino convention)

At the root could be the governor’s inclusion of a “sanctuary city” bill in the special session of the state legislature. The bill threatens to withhold state aid from local governments that prevent police officers from asking about immigration status. Hispanics may also be upset with a bill Perry signed into law last month, requiring photo identification at polling stations. Both are hot-button issues for Latinos.

And Latino voters could prove to be a crucial demographic in 2012. They’re expected to turn out in record numbers, with a possible 26% increase in Latino turnout from the 2008 election.

Perry, a master politician, avoided any mention of the sanctuary city bill or the photo identification bill during his speech, instead focusing on broad themes. He also addressed the audience, saying Hispanic contributions were important for “the future of Texas.” The state’s future, he said to the Latino crowd, is “incredibly bright because of men and women like you.”

But one of Perry’s opponents remains cautious. Democratic state representative Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of Texas’ Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, told the Herald: “Governor Perry is a phenomenal politician and he can campaign like no other, but you’ve got to get beyond the person…Latino voters will look at action but not words. When Latinos scrutinize the actions that have been taken in this state, they’ll look for another choice.”