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GOP hopefuls skip Hispanic forum

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Only one likely Republican U.S. presidential candidate has agreed to attend the opening conference of a conservative Hispanic political forum, Politico says.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who made political speeches in Iowa in November 2009 and this past April, agreed to participate in the Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Coral Gables, Fla., Jan. 13-14, the newspaper says.

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But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney declined. So did South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Texas Gov Rick Perry.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has said he will decide by spring whether to run for the White House in 2012, is "amenable" to attending but hasn't committed yet, his spokesman says.

"It's an Hispanic forum, it's not a presidential forum," says Jim Landry, spokesman for the 10-month-old American Action Network, which promotes "center-right policies" and created the Hispanic group. "We would really like to keep the focus on reaching out to the Hispanic community and communicating the center-right message."

Among the big names at the inaugural conference will be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Minnesota U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

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