by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez on Wednesday introduced U.S. Republican Party's vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, underscoring Republicans' push to reach out to more Hispanic voters.
Telling her personal story, she spoke of an upbringing in which her parents worked hard from paycheck to paycheck and took a risk to start a business that would one day become successful.
"Growing up I never imagined a little girl from a border town could be a governor," she said, breaking into her native Spanish and saying "everything is possible in America."
Analysts said the GOP is seeking to highlight figures like Martinez, whose personal narrative could trump policy for some potential Latino voters.
Her address took a prime-time spot typically reserved for the party's stars, introducing the vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan.
The choice of Martinez underscores a concerted GOP effort to re-vamp its image from the rich, white guys' party to one more inclusive of Hispanics, blacks and women.
This comes amid an exploding Hispanic population and as minority births this year for the first time surpassed those of whites. In order to survive and thrive, the GOP knows it must do more to reach out to groups not typically associated with it.
Besides rallying around presidential challenger Mitt Romney, the convention aims to "show that the GOP is not just a party of old, white men. It is a party of diversity," said the Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
Slated to speak is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose Latino heritage could help peel off supporters from a group that often votes for Democratic.
Rubio will take the high-profile slot just before Romney and is set to introduce the former Massachusetts governor before Romney formally accepts the GOP nomination.
Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno also spoke Wednesday night, and a number of Latino-centric events were scheduled to take place during the conference.
Hispanics voted for Obama in 2008 over his Republican rival by a margin of more than 2 to 1. In 2004, the GOP fared better with Latinos, with former President George W. Bush garnering 44 percent of the votes.
Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said while the presence of Martinez and Rubio will raise the profile of Republican Latinos, the outreach to Latinos will face headwinds due to the perception that the GOP still takes a largely radical stance on issues such as immigration and benefits to immigrants.
Many GOP leaders, including Rubio, as well as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, have stated that the growing Latino demographic makes less strident stances on immigration more important to the future of the Republican Party.
However, the strength of anti-immigrant sentiment among the Tea Party movement makes it hard for the leaders to push against the base on the issue, Mahaffee said.
"While Republicans point out that Latinos share concerns about jobs and the economy similar to overall polling, the question remains: Do Latinos see Republican policies as the answer to these problems?" he said.
The GOP's focus on Latinos may garner a few votes, but whether or not it is enough to swing the election is questionable, he said, adding that loyalties in the long-run are a more nebulous prospect.
"Latinos tend to have culturally conservative values, and as greater numbers of the population become second-or-third-generation Americans, their attitudes may change," he said.
"Some also think that the Republican Party's positions will have to change to match the change in demographics, should it wish to remain politically relevant," he said.