Washington (CNN) - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is calling on conservatives to step up their outreach to Hispanic voters if they want to remain politically relevant.
In a Miami Herald op-ed Sunday, Bush wrote that "the center-right movement" is a natural home for Hispanic voters with its message of lower taxes and education reform.
The Spanish-fluent ex-governor pointed to several bright spots for Republicans in the most recent election cycle – Sen. Marco Rubio's win in Florida, along with pick-ups in the House by Idaho's Raul Labrador and Washington's Jaime Herrera – but said conservatives writ large still get "unacceptably low support" among Hispanic voters.
"While the reason for such low numbers is debatable, the way to turn them around is clear: a long-term commitment to outreach and better articulation of our values by conservative leaders," Bush wrote, pointing to a Pew survey showing that only 38 percent of Hispanics voted Republican in 2010. "I don't think 40 percent of the Hispanic vote can be our ceiling if we plan to impact our nation in the coming decades."
He urged Republicans to "commit to serious and sustained engagement" with the Hispanic community, a strategy "inextricably linked to the continued success of the center-right movement."
Bush is co-chairing this week's debut conference the Hispanic Leadership Network, a group formed last year by the conservative American Action Network to appeal to Hispanic voters.
Conference organizers invited a slew of potential GOP presidential contenders, but only Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has accepted an invitation and will address the forum on Friday in Coral Gables.