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Hispanic Vote Beckons 2012 Candidates

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez will cohair a Hispanic Leadership Network conference on Jan. 26-27 in Miami, right before the Jan. 31 presidential primary.

The conference is billed as the "ideal platform for future presidential candidates, elected officials and community leaders to engage with the Hispanic community.'' The conference in January 2011 attracted only one candidate -- Tim Pawlenty -- who barely mentioned immigration or the Hispanic vote in his speech. Will be interesting to see who shows up this time, especially in the wake of a campaign in which Rick Perry has been pilloried for backing in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrant kids as governor of Texas.

At the January 2011 conference, several speakers decried the harsh tone that frequently accompanies the debate over immigration policy.

"If you send the signals of  'them v. us' you're not going to be able to get the desired result," said Bush at the time. "Leaders have to lead, and that means they have the responsibility of civility as well as having a tone that draws people toward our cause and not against it."

Republican strategists say a nominee who can attract 40 percent of the Hispanic vote will win the White House.

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