As eyes turn from South Carolina to Florida for the GOP primaries, one Republican Senator who isn’t even running for president is sharing the spotlight with the Republican presidential candidates.
Particularly in editorial pages and TV commentary, Latino-oriented media is analyzing what presidential candidates say about national immigration reform.
Diego Graglia, FI2W blog editor
Latin American immigrants became an important segment of the American electorate in this election, representing forty percent of the overall Hispanic vote, according to data released this afternoon by pro-immigrant organization America’s Voice.
Initial estimates indicate that about 10 million Hispanics voted in this election, maintaining their 8 percent share of the national electorate in a year in which more Americans voted than in previous contests. While the percentage was the same, the size of the Hispanic electorate increased considerably from the 7.6 million Latinos who cast their votes in 2004 and the almost six million who did so in 2000.
Mexicans, Dominicans, and immigrants from Central and South American countries “voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama for president,” according to pollster Sergio Bendixen, whose firm Bendixen and Associates conducted exit polls among Latino voters in Los Angeles and Miami. Bendixen said 78 percent of Latin American immigrant voters chose the Democratic candidate and 22 percent supported Republican John McCain.
Support for Obama was lower –61 percent– among U.S. born Hispanics, who were 50 percent of all Hispanic voters.
The remaining 10 percent of the Hispanic electorate is composed of two groups of non-immigrant Latinos: Cuban refugees and Puerto Rican U.S. citizens. While Puerto Ricans split 77 to 23 percent in favor of Obama, Bendixen reported, Cubans were the only subgroup to prefer John McCain, by a margin of 69 to 31 percent.
“Thirty-two percent of all Latin American immigrants who voted (in this election) were first-time voters,” Bendixen said today during a conference call with national media.
“There is no doubt that the immigration issue played a very important part in getting them involved in this presidential contest,” Bendixen added, indicating that the recent divisive immigration reform debate may well have energized many Latinos to vote this year, and helped Obama win the Presidency.
“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.
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.”
Latinos are considered especially important as a voting population this year because it’s expected they’ll help decide whether four key battleground states go red or blue – Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, for a total of 46 electoral college votes.
Of those four, Florida is by far the most important, the mother of all battleground states, with 27 electoral votes. The Sunshine State gave the Democratic campaign some encouraging news over the weekend, when a new poll showed Sen. Barack Obama holding a slight lead over Republican Sen. John McCain among Hispanics in Florida. Polls already showed Obama ahead in the other three “Hispanic battleground states.” Overall, the new poll says, he leads McCain 2-to-1 among Latinos in swing states.
The Orlando Sentinel gave these details on the new poll by Newlink Research:
Of those surveyed in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania, 63 percent said they would vote for Obama, while 27 percent preferred McCain.
In Florida, 49 percent of Hispanics surveyed favored Obama to McCain’s 43 percent, and the margin of error is 3.75 percentage points. Newlink Research polled 684 likely voters in those key states.
Previous polls had given McCain a slight lead or called Florida a virtual tie, which seems to show it’s too early to make any definitive judgment on which direction Florida’s Latinos are going to lean. (more…)
Miami is sometimes half-jokingly called “the capital of Latin America,” for its concentration of Latin American expats, Latin American corporation headquarters and even vacation homes for the region’s richest. No wonder then that both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama opted to outline their potential foreign policy towards the region while campaigning in Florida last week. Both candidates gave interviews to Radio Caracol that made headlines, each in its own way.
The highlight of McCain’s appearance was his apparent confusion as to Spain’s location and who its prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is [you can listen to it here.] A story on the incident in The Sydney Morning Herald was headlined “The brain in McCain under strain about Spain.” However, a campaign advisor denied there was any confusion, which can only hurt Spanish pride.
In respect to Latin America, McCain expressed coldness for the more anti-American leftist leaders in the region and support for Mexico’s Felipe Calderón in his war against drug cartels.
Obama, in turn, projected a more empathetic stance towards the region, admitting that the U.S. “has been so obsessed with Iraq that we haven’t spent time focused on the situation in Latin America.” He also seemed to defend his position on a potential meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who the McCain camp featured in an attack ad on Spanish-language TV this week:
I think it’s important for us to not overreact to Chavez. I think what we have to do is just let Chavez know that we don’t want him exporting anti-American sentiment and causing trouble in the region, but that we are interested in having a respectful dialogue with everybody in Latin America in terms of figuring out how we can improve the day to day lives of people.
Most people in Latin America would agree that the U.S. has not paid attention to the region so far this century. A lot of them, however, would probably view that as a good thing. Most Latin Americans consider the much-disliked free-market economic policies of the ’90s known as the Washington Consensus to have been forced on the region by the U.S. and the multilateral organizations on which it generally exerts commanding control, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. (more…)
Journalist Diego Graglia has been documenting the lives of Latinos during this presidential election year. He recently traveled from New York City to Mexico City, stopping along the way to talk to Latinos in small towns and big cities about the issues that matter to them. For more on La Ruta del Voto Latino/The Road to the Latino Vote visit www.newyorktomexico.com.
Restaurant owner Gerónimo Barragán saw ten of his employees arrested and deported in February, some to his native Mexico, others to Guatemala. Santa Rosa County, Florida authorities also went to other businesses, looking for people using stolen Social Security numbers. Since the raid, the already small Hispanic community in the Florida Panhandle town of Milton has all but disappeared.
In this interview Barragán talks about the raid and his thoughts on the upcoming the election. A committed Baptist, Barragán supports President Bush and may not vote at all.
Listen to the interview with Gerónimo Barragán.[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/fi2w_laruta_geronimo.mp3]
In this year’s historic elections Latinos are poised to play a historic role. If Latinos vote in the precedent-setting numbers that marked their participation in the presidential primaries, they could be responsible for putting a candidate in office.
When Sen. Hillary Clinton exited the race in June, the support that she had among this voting block appeared up for grabs. Both campaigns released Spanish language ads and Sen. John McCain even traveled to Mexico and Colombia to appeal to Hispanic voters. Demographic profiles showed that Latinos could help decide who would win key battleground states like New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Nevada.
But despite the hype, perhaps Latino votes aren’t really that swing-able? Ever since Clinton’s departure, polls have shown Latinos steadily moving to support Obama. A recent Gallup Poll appears to confirm this trend, showing Latinos backing Obama 59% to 29% over McCain. The poll concludes that Latino support enjoyed by Clinton appears to have shifted to Obama.
The shift in poll numbers raise the question: Is this group really as elastic as the political narrative has suggested?