A potential 2012 presidential contender will speak in Coral Gables Friday along with other politicians eager to appeal to Hispanic voters, convened by former Gov. Jeb Bush to build on the Republican Party's recent success with the nation's fastest-growing minority group.
The newly founded Hispanic Leadership Network, an arm of the conservative American Action Network and the American Action Forum, began its inaugural conference Thursday evening at the Biltmore Hotel. Friday's program will feature panelists ranging from former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible aspirant to the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
Other top Republican candidates for the White House reportedly turned down invitations to the conference, which some political observers interpreted as a troubling sign if the GOP is to woo a growing constituency of Hispanic voters to try to unseat President Barack Obama.
The conference has not billed itself as a presidential forum but as a discussion on reaching out to the diverse Hispanic community. Yet it has drawn national attention, being held in the nation's largest battleground state and co-hosted by Bush, a fluent Spanish speaker and, as one of Florida's most popular political figures, a frequently mentioned candidate for higher office.
``As we look ahead to a new year brimming with excitement and possibility, we cannot simply rest on the success of 2010; the conservative movement must commit to a long-term outreach strategy to ensure our strategy is being heard,'' Bush wrote in a Sunday Op-Ed in The Miami Herald.
Inaugurating the conference Thursday evening, Bush called for long-term engagement among conservatives on issues Hispanics care about.
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