Here are two numbers that ought to worry Republicans: 56% and 64%.

Those numbers are, respectively, the percentage of America’s population growth in the last decade that came from Hispanics, and the percentage of Hispanics who voted for Democrats last year.

Here is the number that ought to worry Democrats: 69%.

That is the percentage of eligible Hispanic voters who didn’t show up to vote in 2010’s midterm elections.

This picture—of a big and growing Hispanic population, friendly to Democrats yet still a sleeping giant in electoral terms—explains much of the activity you are seeing in early rounds of the 2012 political cycle.

It explains why President Barack Obama did no fewer than four events targeted at Hispanics in the past two weeks. It also explains why one of the first things Newt Gingrich did after declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination was to sit down for an interview with the Spanish-language network Univision (where his opening line was delivered in Spanish: “Jorge, gracias por invitarme a tu programa,” or, “Jorge, thanks for inviting me to your program.”)

To them, Republicans’ message will be two-fold: Jobs are the most important issue to Hispanics, and we are the job-creating party, and Republicans share the conservative social values predominant in the Hispanic community.

The Republican National Committee is beefing up its staff for communicating to Hispanics, and pointing to a significant number of Hispanics elected as Republicans last year. In sum, when it comes to Hispanics, it’s game on.

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