Tag: Battleground States

Immigration NewsLatino

As North Carolina Becomes Yet Another Swing State, Could Latinos Have an Impact?

North Carolina is now considered a swing state, and the Obama campaign has been targeting Latinos there. But the state’s Latino voting population is still relatively small. Could Hispanic voters have an influence on the allocation of the state’s fifteen electoral votes? Feet in 2 Worlds interviewed Gregory B. Weeks, an associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, to talk about this.
North Carolina at Pollster.com on Tuesday Oct. 21

North Carolina at Pollster.com on Tuesday Oct. 21

It seems these days political news junkies can’t get their eyes off the electoral map predictions at CNN, Real Clear Politics or Pollster.com: whenever you look away, another state becomes a swing state.

Take, for example, North Carolina, a once-solid red state that now seems to be turning blue. The three websites were calling it a tossup earlier this week — and The New York Times described it as “a raging battleground.” If Barack Obama indeed wins the Tar Heel state, he will be the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since Southerner Jimmy Carter did it in 1976.

Like a number of other states that voted for President Bush in the last two elections, the Obama campaign has jumped at the opportunity to try to “steal” North Carolina from the Republican column. Last weekend, Barack Obama campaigned in Fayeteville on his sixth visit to the state since the primaries, according to the Times. (John McCain was in Concord, near Charlotte, trying to defend Republican turf.) On Thursday, Obama’s running mate Joe Biden will make three stops in the state: Charlotte, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, and Meredith College in Raleigh.

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Immigration News

NALEO Survey: Significant Numbers of Latinos Remain Undecided in Battleground States

“Obamanos,” Latino Support for Obama in Espanola, N.M.
NPR
PHOTO by Ben Bergman/Morning Edition

With the presidential race increasingly focused on states where Latinos are a big chunk of the electorate, the latest survey released by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) shows there are still significant numbers of Latinos who are undecided in those key states. [You can download the report in pdf here.]

The survey included registered voters in Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada. According to NALEO, Latinos in those states may vote “in unprecedented numbers”: nearly ninety percent of Latino registered voters are almost certain they will vote on Nov. 4.

[Both campaigns are releasing their Spanish-language ads mostly in these states, while Latinos in other regions of the country don’t receive as much attention. As I reported recently in a story in the New York Daily News, Latinos in other states are not so highly energized about voting this year.]

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund, said in a press release:

In key battleground states, Latino voters are ready to vote in huge numbers, and a significant percentage is still persuadable. Underestimating the Latino vote could be disastrous for either party.

The top priority for most of the voters surveyed by NALEO is the economy. “The severe downturn in the housing and mortgage sector is likely to impact many Latinos,” the study says. Other issues of importance are the war in Iraq, health care and immigration reform. This represents little change from earlier polls, which had shown -even before “bailout” was in our daily lexicon- Latinos’ top issue was the economic downturn.

Looking at undecided Latino voters state by state, here’s what’s up:

The West is blue. Barack Obama enjoys strong support from Hispanics in Colorado (63% to John McCain’s 15%), New Mexico (61% to 20%) and Nevada (55% to 14%).

Florida is another story. “In Florida,” NALEO says, “the battle for the Latino vote is nearly a statistical tie at 38% for McCain and 35% for Obama.”

Still… Voters who remain undecided or “only indicate not so strong support” for a candidate are: one in five in Colorado and New Mexico; one in four in Florida; and nearly one in three in Nevada. [NPR says Obama’s campaign is putting a “major focus” on New Mexico.]

The numbers would seem to provide a glimmer of hope for John McCain, except when compared to President George W. Bush’s historic (for a Republican) 40% performance among Hispanic voters in 2004.

As both Politico and The A.P. noted recently, Latinos seem to be turning a cold shoulder to McCain after his change of heart regarding immigration reform.

This is how Sam Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a prominent supporter of George W. Bush in 2004, explained it to Politico‘s Ben Smith,

“I feel bad for McCain. We find ourselves between the proverbial rock and the hard place. We really like John McCain. We really don’t like the Republican Party.”

Immigration News

Obama To Deploy Army of 500 to Turn Out Latino Voters: Top Latino Strategist Says Florida May Not Be Winnable

Polls may look tight right now in the presidential race, but Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Figueroa, a man who’s had several key positions in the Obama campaign –he was national field director and is now head of Latino outreach- talks confidently about, “paths to victory,” and, “expanding the universe,” of voters.

“We don’t want to go to bed on election night hoping Ohio or Florida are gonna come our way, like the last two election cycles,” says Figueroa, while he dips his fork into a seared tuna salad at a restaurant in San Diego on a recent afternoon. “We want to create different paths to victory and if we don’t win Ohio, or Florida, there’s other ways.”

Figueroa says that that the path to victory will mean, “focusing like a laser beam on four states that have a lot of Latino voters, and that were won by Bush in the last election: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida.”

His comments reflect the oft-repeated claim by the campaign that they can change the electoral map in 2008. The path to victory though, doesn’t necessarily mean expanding the map. Figueroa doesn’t believe that Obama can win Florida but he does think they can win 2 or 3 Western states if they drive up turnout.

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Immigration News

Latinos Expected to Vote in Record Numbers this November: Could Help Turn Red States Blue

At least 9.2 million Latinos are expected to vote in November’s presidential election according to a report released Thursday by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. If the estimate is correct, it would represent an increase of more than one million Latino voters compared to the 2004 election.

The number is considered “merely a floor” rather than a ceiling by NALEO, which issued the 64-page report on the potential impact of Latinos in this election cycle. If Latino voter turnout in this year’s primaries is an indicator, the report says the Latino vote could spike even higher in the general election and represent a record percentage of the overall vote in key battleground states. “Changing demographics and rising political participation in the Latino community are redefining the American political landscape,” Senators Ken Salazar and Robert Menendez wrote in the report. “More than any time in the history of our great country, Latino voices and Latino voters will be at the center of the 2008 election, helping to determine the direction our country takes at this critical juncture.”

Primaries Demonstrated Power of Latino Vote
Latinos have already proved they are a formidable voting block, providing the margin of victory for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Texas and Ohio Democratic primaries and for Sen. John McCain in his decisive win in the Florida GOP primary, according to the NALEO report. The modified primary calendar provided ethnic minorities with more of a say in the presidential nominating process. Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s Latinos live in states that held primaries or caucuses on or before March 4th.

Democrats appeared to benefit the most from the turnout. “Latino Democratic turnout in some major states with large Latino populations doubled, tripled and even quintupled between 2004 and 2008,” the NALEO report found. Latino turnout may be a key to victory for Democrats in the general election, since at least five of the fourteen swing states that the Party hopes to turn blue have sizeable Latino populations.

Florida Remains the State to Watch
Not surprisingly, NALEO points to Florida as the state to watch in the 2008 election. Though Florida’s Latino population has historically trended Republican, an influx of Latinos from South and Central America, as well as Puerto Ricans in Central Florida, have created a sizeable electorate that could vote Democratic. Latinos who are registered Democratic in the state outnumber Latino registered Republicans by 35.3 percent to 33.5 percent. A third of registered of Latinos are unaffiliated and may be up for grabs by both parties. NALEO projects that more than one million Latino voters in Florida will cast their ballot in November’s presidential election.

Latino Turnout Could Be Even Higher
Nationwide more than 17 million Latinos are eligible to vote. One factor that could push the number higher is the swelling ranks of Latinos naturalized as US citizens. The overall number of naturalization applications doubled from 2006 to 2007 to 1.4 million applicants according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Due to a backlog in processing applications, however, the government agency estimates that will finish processing only 80 percent of the applications filed in 2007 in time for the election. Historically, turnout by naturalized Latinos is higher than those who are native born, according to the Census Bureau.

The immigration debate has also galvanized the Latino electorate, according to the NALEO report. “The last two years have seen the mass mobilization of Latinos in reaction to our nation’s widely publicized immigration debate,” the report says. “The intense current debate has already affected Latino naturalizations, and many Latino applicants for citizenship are motivated in part by the desire to make their voices heard.” However, the report concluded that it is unclear how much of the political reaction to the debate would translate into Latino turnout in the election.

ArabImmigration News

Lifting the veil on Obama's relations with Arab-Americans

The sharp outcry last week after two Muslim women wearing headscarves were told they couldn’t appear behind Senator Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Detroit, has raised questions about the credibility and motivations of Obama’s post-racial, multi-ethnic message and appeal.

On June 18th two Muslim women separately reported that they were told they could not appear on stage behind Obama because they had headscarves on. Obama later called the women to personally apologize, and his campaign released a statement saying that the actions by the Obama volunteers who barred the women was unacceptable and went against the spirit of his campaign.

The incident was picked up by the national press, some calling the move hypocrisy, while others pointed out that the campaign has had to tread a tightrope between combating rumors and perceptions that Obama is a Muslim and at the same time not appearing to denigrate Muslims or Islam with his disavowals.

The reaction in the Arab press has been louder, harsher and more impassioned. A scathing column by Ray Hanania posted on the Arab Writers Group went so far as to allege a tacit agreement between the press and the Obama campaign to report the incident without a sense of outrage. Hanania called the incident an act of “racism.” He claimed that if the same thing had happened at a McCain event there would have been a loud outcry in the media.

To underscore that sentiment a political cartoon released to Arab newspapers by Hanania and David Kish shows Obama telling a crowd that there are many differences between him and Sen. John McCain. The following panel shows a volunteer telling two women in headscarves that they can’t be seen. The cartoon ends with a thought bubble over Obama’s head that reads: “Then again maybe not so many.”

While reporting on the incident has focused on the motivations and tactics of the campaign, it has neglected to delve into whether Obama’s candidacy may be raising the level of interest and participation in the political process by Muslims and Arab-Americans.

While there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Obama’s candidacy has galvanized Arab or Muslim voters, there are attempts within the community to increase political participation. The Arab American Institute has launched “Our Voice. Our Vote. Yalla Vote ’08.” to bring issues related to the Arab-American community to the forefront in 2008.

“Like all Americans, we’re concerned about the economy and education, about health care and home prices. But there are a host of other issues that are impacting our community more deeply and more personally than any others: issues like civil liberties, immigration, and our country’s foreign policies,” Dr. James Zogby, of the Arab American Institute said in a statement.

The group is planning to put organizers on the ground in key states, and plans to monitor political races on all levels to help advance an agenda that reflects Arab-American concerns.

It’s easy to see how Muslim voters would be attracted to a candidate with family members who are Muslim, whose father comes from Kenya, and who spent his early years in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. But is the appeal of Obama’s personal story outweighed by his campaign’s efforts to downplay his Muslim roots? For Arab and Muslim voters incidents like the one in Detroit last week could end up linking Obama to what some in the Muslim community allege is a long-standing bias by American politicians and the mainstream media against Muslims and Arabs in this country.

Michigan will be a battleground in 2008, and has one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the country. In a tight election the Arab vote could be a significant factor.