The Castano candidacy is part of a second GOP attempt to win the votes of Hispanics. During the Reagan years, ABC's Cokie Roberts once observed Hispanics exiting a naturalization ceremony and heading straight to a Republican registration table. They were attracted to "the party's emphasis on family, work, and prayer," she said—and President Reagan won 47 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1984.
In 1994, though, former California Gov. Pete Wilson's Proposition 187, perceived as anti-Hispanic for its denial of government social services to illegal immigrants, hurt the Republican Party. Even though Hispanics are split ideologically—one survey showed 35 percent apiece for conservatives and liberals—Democrats have dominated the Hispanic vote in recent elections and have far more officeholders: Texas, for instance, has 16 Hispanic Republican elected officials and 574 elected Hispanic Democrats.
George W. Bush for a decade now has emphasized the need for Republicans to appeal to Hispanics willing to leave behind the Democratic Party's bartering system of a handout for a vote. In 2000 and 2004, enlisting a San Antonio ad agency that specializes in marketing to Hispanics, he assured Hispanics that he would fight for their cuerpo y alma—their "body and soul." President Bush in 2004 received between 40 percent and 44 percent of Hispanic votes nationwide, and surpassed the 50 percent mark in several overwhelmingly Hispanic Texas border counties.