Presidential candidates target Hispanic voters
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CHARLOTTE -- Focus in the 2012 Presidential campaign is shifting to the Hispanic community.
While both parties are courting Latinos as voters, Republicans are reportedly considering a number of Hispanics as potential Vice-Presidential candidates.
Some political experts said this could be the push Republicans need to win the election in North Carolina and across the country.
"This Obama economy has been especially hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans," said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Both sides recognize the importance of this electorate.
"The Hispanic vote is going to be a big part of the key to sending President Obama back to the White House," said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
A Latino name on the Republican ticket might help win over some of those voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval are all being mentioned as possible VP candidates.
"Symbolically, it would be important, because it would show the Republican party is at least interested in trying to include Latinos," said UNC Charlotte Political Science Professor Greg Weeks.
Weeks has written several books on Latin American politics, including the influence in the South. He said Hispanics could play a role in Presidential politics in North Carolina.
"Since the state could go one way or the other, you have to pay attention to that constituency," said Weeks.
History shows Hispanics traditionally vote Democratic in Presidential elections. 67 percent of Hispanic voters in 2008 supported President Obama.
In swing states, like North Carolina and Virginia, the Hispanic population has doubled in the past decade. Weeks, however, said influence remains limited.
"In North Carolina, you have a growing Latino population, but the percentage of Latinos that are registered to vote is very low," said Weeks.
Both parties know the Latino vote could swing the state.
"What we've got to focus on are the key battleground states where the Hispanic vote can make or break the difference there," said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist.
"We're actively engaged in getting the Hispanic community out to vote," said Wassermann Schultz.
Romney is expected to pick his running mate by mid-August.