Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
The GOP is gearing up for the 2012 election, and party members are also looking for ways to garner support from a growing population.
It's the fastest growing minority group in the country - and that's not hard to see in places like Williams Boulevard in Kenner, where Hispanic businesses line the streets.
“We have a tremendous Hispanic population and it needs to be addressed more strongly,” said Mercedes Hernandez, president of the Southshore Republican Women’s Club.
In many states Hispanics are the largest growing voting bloc, and here in the New Orleans metro, census numbers show, the Hispanic population is booming, and that means it's an especially important group for the 2012 election.
President Obama visited Puerto Rico last week, hoping to increase support from Hispanic voters living in the US. There are over 4 million Puerto Ricans living in the U.S., many in key states like Florida.
But at the Republican Leadership Convention in New Orleans this weekend, there was little talk of reaching out to Hispanics,even from someone who has worked to win Hispanic support for the party in the past, George P. Bush.
Bush declined an interview. Meanwhile, one political expert says, the Hispanic vote is still up for grabs.
“The big issue in the Hispanic community is immigration, and it seems Republicans are very militant on this issue, it's all about border security, and nothing else,” said Dr. Edward Chervanak, a UNO political scientist.
“But on the flip side, the Democrats aren't really out there attempting to mobilize Hispanics into their coalition, they're almost afraid to talk about the immigration issue,” he said.
Republicans say they're working on a special task force to reach out to Hispanics.
“Our doors are open to anyone who wants to come here to become an American, but we are not going to be able to continue to have people who come here illegally,” said Ruth Ulrich, RNC vice chairman for the southern region.
But many say those on both sides aren't doing enough to reach out to a growing community.
“I chose not to attend the conference, because I would have had to stand up and say hooray and maybe clap for some of the same people who have chosen to walk away from showing their leadership. Leadership is a lonely stand, but it has to be based on fundaments, principals, and if the country needs something done, i.e. immigration reform, it needs to be done,” said the founder of the Louisiana Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Vinicio Madrigal
Saturday marked the end of the Republican Leadership Conference. It's one of the GOP’s largest gatherings outside the Republican National Convention.