A Haitian-American journalist who helped guide the previous two issues of our online magazine.
Hundreds of stores selling herbal remedies offer emotional and spiritual support to Latino New Yorkers.
Offering a glimpse of Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field tomorrow in Denver, a top campaign official said Obama will announce an unprecedented effort to enroll new voters before the November election. Obama’s Latino Outreach Director, Temo Figueroa told Feet in 2 Worlds, “You’re going to be hearing tomorrow from Barack Obama the kick-off of the largest voter registration drive ever in a presidential campaign.”
Figueroa’s remarks followed a presentation to the Hispanic Caucus this morning in Denver where he characterized the resources the campaign will put into the program as, “mind boggling.”
“Tomorrow (in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination) you are going to hear Sen. Barack Obama talk about voter registration and he’s going to mention some numbers that we’re going to be spending on voter registration through the month of September that will be mind boggling. That’s going to be a focus of his speech at Invesco,” Figueroa promised.
Figueroa also told FI2W that unlike past elections, the campaign will not “contract out” the job of registering voters.
“But we’re doing it in-house. We’re doing it with our own volunteers, with our own staff,” he said.
“We’re already making a dent,” he said. “The numbers are already showing what we’re doing in Virginia, what we’re doing in New Mexico, what we’re doing in Colorado and Nevada. It’s amazing.”
The Obama campaign’s emphasis on voter registration started even before Obama had won the primaries. On May 10th the campaign launched Vote for Change, a 50-state voter registration drive which was intended to lay the groundwork for a general election campaign.
“I believe the only way Barack Obama can win is we have to play in states we normally, as Democrats, never played in, and we have to bring new people in,” Figueroa said.
While Obama’s voter registration drive will target Americans all of backgrounds, the Obama campaign has previously pledged 20 million dollars on Latino outreach efforts including voter registration and paid media. The campaign has 400 Latino organizers and is training hundreds of volunteers to increase turnout among Latinos in key battleground states. In New Mexico alone, where an estimated 40,000 registered Latino voters didn’t got to the polls in 2004, Figueroa said the campaign has 29 field offices staffed by Latinos.
Stressing the point to the delegates at the Hispanic Caucus, Figueroa gave a Power Point presentation – complete with slides, maps and electoral math – that showed that Latinos can even make a difference in battleground states like Virginia if turnout is driven up just among currently registered voters. But he stressed repeatedly that even in Virginia there is a large group of unregistered Latinos that the campaign hopes to tap.
Acknowledging that many Latinos are still not familiar with Obama, Figueroa told the crowd that starting next week the campaign will go on air with Spanish-language ads in New Mexico, Nevada, Florida and Colorado to present Obama’s message and biography to Latino voters.
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?
John McCain will meet with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico today and hot button issues like immigration and trade will top the agenda.
McCain has dismissed suggestions that his three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico are a way to woo Latinos.
But the political notes that play well in Mexico City may ring sour in Michigan, and that raises the political question of the day.
Will reaching out to minority voting groups be enough to tip the scales in favor of one candidate over another, especially in battleground states? If the answer is yes, it could signal a seismic shift in electoral politics.
Over the course of the primaries much attention was given to white, working class voters. These are the voters who bore the brunt of job losses from NAFTA, who fear an influx of immigrants because they could lower wages, and who strayed from the Democratic Party as it embraced social service programs and policies targeted towards minorities that left many Whites feeling that the party had forgotten their concerns. Re-labeled Reagan Democrats, they were the key to victory for Republicans and the one Democrat, Bill Clinton, who successful courted them.
When Sen. Barack Obama couldn’t win this group during the Democratic primaries, many analysts questioned his ability to forge a winning coalition in November. But Obama had a new demographic formula: young voters, African Americans voting in record numbers and affluent, liberal Whites.
As the first African American to be a presumptive party nominee, Obama faces greater scrutiny about his ability to win over Whites, and is spending time and resources in cultivating favor with this group. McCain, on the other hand, doesn’t have to worry about that kind of political symbolism.
It frees him to conduct one of the most novel exercises in this already unique campaign cycle – campaigning for American votes outside of America. It’s a recognition that despite resistance in some parts of the American electorate, the dam has burst on globalization and the effects of this flood has blurred borders, mixed identities and is making the U.S. more politically accountable to her immediate neighbors than ever before.
Aligning with Latinos on trade and immigration, McCain may be the first candidate, if he’s successful, to prioritize the concerns of a minority group over the wishes and priorities of a large part of the country’s majority demographic group. His move reflects the shift occurring in the U.S. population, but campaigning in this way also invests power in Latino voters and provides them the platform to push their issue agenda forward and by extension the agendas of the countries many in this group are tied to.
As the much publicized NALEO report showed, Latinos could be the swing block in the swing states. They have already provided McCain with one victory – in Florida. Winning the Sunshine state with the Latino vote allowed him to clinch the Republican nomination. Now will it allow him to clinch the presidency?