WASHINGTON D.C. – When Ted Cruz first announced that he was running for president earlier this week, he did it via Twitter, where he wrote: “I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support!”
Hours later, when he announced his candidacy the old fashioned way – in a speech before a crowd – he also released two campaign videos on YouTube, one in English and one in Spanish.
This is a glimpse into the multimedia approach to reaching Latinos that Republicans plan to make a core part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Hispanics are leading users of digital media,” said Ruth Guerra, director of Hispanic media for the Republican National Committee, “and their median age is 27.”
That’s a whole 10 years younger than the general population’s median age of 37, and it’s critical, Guerra said, to reach them through the technology that is central to their lives.
Republicans are also looking to woo Latinos by going right to their communities, something that GOP candidates have not done nearly as much as Democrats have. Since the last election, they have kept Republican campaign offices in 11 states where there are significant Latino populations.
“The Hispanic community is about trust and being face-to-face,” said Guerra in an interview on Capitol Hill with Fox News Latino. “We’re getting candidates to go to the communities, to the events, to engage with Hispanics, Otherwise, Hispanics are going to hear about Republicans from Democrats.”
The DNC is also coming out with a strategy of its own. It is launching the "Hispanic Caucus," and ambitious get-out the vote effort to bolster Latino support for their party's presidential nominee. DNC officials declined to give more details about the caucus. If successful, it could be repeated in other battleground states.
The 2012 presidential election was a wake-up call for the GOP. President Barack Obama swept up 71 percent of the Latino vote, and his GOP challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got a paltry 27 percent.
Many surveys of Latino voters revealed that they viewed Republicans as anti-Latino, in no small part because of some harsh rhetoric regarding immigration during the GOP primaries.
Romney, political observers have said, remained something of a caricature or enigma to many Latinos that he never was able to overcome.
Last year, for the mid-term, Republicans tried different strategies, including making Republican candidates more accessible, and more real, so to speak, to Latino voters.
In Central Florida, where Republicans made concerted efforts to court Latinos, two GOP candidates beat Democratic incumbents.
One of the victors was GOP candidate Rene Plasencia, a teacher and track coach who won 51 percent of the vote in the congressional district, which has a growing Puerto Rican community. He beat a Democratic incumbent.
“They did a lot of Hispanic engagement” with the support of the national RNC, Guerra said, “and they defeated Democrat incumbents.”
Republicans applied a similar approach in Colorado, where U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a conservative Republican, beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in one of the most closely watched races in the nation.
Gardner won 51 percent of the vote, and Udall got 43 percent with 71 percent of the precincts reporting.
“We got them out to community events,” Guerra said about Gardner and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who beat the Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff, by a large margin.
Coffman and Romanoff made national headlines when they participated in Colorado’s first such all-Spanish political debate on TV. Coffman, who was taking Spanish lessons, agreed to take part even though Romanoff is fluent and, thus, had an edge.
“Coffman still is taking Spanish classes,” Guerra said.
Democrats balk at the GOP’s plans to improve their image among Latinos.
They say Latinos will not be fooled by cosmetics. If the basic positions of Republicans continue to be against comprehensive immigration reform and raising the minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act, they will continue to alienate the country’s fastest voting bloc, said Holly Shulman, the national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.
“Issues matter,” Shulman said to Fox News Latino. “The reality is people are going to make their selection based on what candidates believe.”
When the GOP tells Latinos that theirs is the party that shares with them such things as strong family values, Shulman said, Latinos contrast the rhetoric with the actions GOP lawmakers have taken to deport more people and separate families.
“Republicans in the last few months have tried to shut down the Department of Homeland Security because they wanted to stop a policy that would keep families together,” she said.