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July 24th, 2008
08:04 AM ET

Latinos to Obama: "¡Si, se puede!’’

William Schneider
Senior political analyst

"This election could well be determined by Latino voters,’’ Barack Obama told the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) on July 8. That’s why Obama and John McCain both showed up, three weeks in a row this summer, to speak to Latino political organizations.

How did Latino voters get so much clout? Latinos are 15 percent of the population. But they were only eight percent of the voters in 2004. Nearly half the nation's Latinos live in California or Texas. Neither is a battleground state. Moreover, since 1972, Republican candidates have averaged only about one third of the Latino vote. So why are Latino voters so hotly contested this time?

Because of four battleground states. Obama told LULAC, "Every four years, some of the closest contests take place in Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico - states with large Latino communities."

O.K., so who’s winning the Latino vote?

A new poll from the Pew Hispanic Center shows Obama with a huge lead, 66 to 23 percent, among Latino voters nationwide. Does McCain have a problem with Latinos? In his LULAC speech, the presumptive Republican nominee said the United States "would be the poorer were we deprived of the patriotism, industry and decency of those millions of Americans whose families came here from other countries in our hemisphere.’’ McCain added, "I will honor their contributions to America for as long as I live.’’

Latinos have a mixed opinion of McCain – 44 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable. Their big problem is with President Bush. In 2004, Bush carried about 40 percent of the Latino vote – a record high for a Republican presidential candidate. Bush’s favorability rating with Latinos is now down to 27 percent.

And Obama? 76 percent favorable. Which makes him a little more popular than Hillary Clinton (73 percent). In the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton trounced Obama among Latino voters (61 to 35 percent in the combined exit polls for all the Democratic primaries). Is Obama having problems winning over Clinton’s Latino supporters? Apparently not. The Pew poll shows Obama doing better with Latinos who voted for Clinton in the primaries than with whites who voted for Clinton.

McCain has made a determined effort to reach out to Latinos on the immigration issue. He told LULAC, "I and many other colleagues twice attempted to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.’’ Which candidate do Latinos believe would be better for immigrants? Fifty percent said Obama, twelve percent McCain. About a third of Latinos rated Obama and McCain the same on immigration.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Latinos will vote for an African-American candidate. We have the answer: they will. In fact, 32 percent of Latinos say the fact that Obama is black will help him with Latino voters. Only 11 percent believe it will hurt him.

The big factor among Latinos is political party. Increasing numbers call themselves Democrats. In the Pew poll, Latino Democrats outnumber Latino Republicans by nearly 40 points (65 to 26 percent). When asked which party is better for Hispanics, Democrats lead Republicans by ten to one (55 to 5 percent).

Which means that, whatever McCain does to cultivate Latino support, he appears to be doomed by the "R’’ next to his name on the ballot. And whatever qualms Latinos had about Obama in the primaries, he is saved by the "D’’ after his name.

For more on this story check out the latest numbers here


Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. K

    I am happy to hear that Latinos are supporting Obama, it took them long enough. However, I don't think the Latinos will decide this vote. We have say it would be young white voters, black, white women, then independent, and now Latinos, please. The media is trying to keep the election year interesting, I don't blame them, have you see Mccain, nothing too spacial, so the news has to come from somewhere else.

    I also think Mccain still have time to gain more Hispanic support, all he has to do is say something in Spanish, or promise to make Spanish a second language, he should be fine. He doesn't have to come through, but he can lie about it, a lot of people will want to believe him. They vote for Bush because he had say something in Spanish...

    July 24, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  2. GregO

    All this talk about Latinos, blacks, whites, diversity, no diversity, I have yet to hear anything about who actually funds our government. The fact of the matter is that white males pay 85% of the total taxes in America!! So if taxation without representation continues to occur, good luck paying for all of the social handouts we currently have. Vote in whoever you want, but with the out of control government spending we currently have the tax revolution is coming sooner than later. No tax revenue no government!!!!

    July 24, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    So now its the Latinos that are the big decider? What happened to middle America? Or the women or the white males? Why do we have to put people in little groups and talk about support that way? Even as the candidates try to treat us all as Americans and not disparate groups bases on our race or profession or sex, political pundits continue to do so. I think we need a new way of looking at who is supporting whom rather than the way we do it now. The times have changed, people have changed, so the view of the American voter should change as well.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 24, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  4. Suzana

    No se puede. I'm tired of Obama-mania. I want my TV back. This man is overexposed. And I still will not vote for a media and PR creation without any experience for the most important job in the USA.

    July 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm |
  5. ed

    Well, I don't know where your polling Latinos, but it's certainly not in my neck of the woods. The Latinos I've been talking to don't even trust him. He may be popular now, but nothing lasts forever. With time, his ego will get the better of him. He's in love with the sound of his own voice and he's idealistic in a world where we need practical solutions to very real problems we're facing. I won't vote for him and I know many Latinos that feel the same way I do.

    July 24, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  6. Tommy

    Talk to us about European enlightenment when they are not making monkey sounds and thowing bananas and black soccer players.

    July 24, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  7. Sandra Pinto

    When will society stop classifying people by their ethnic origin? It is so American so un-European. The European sees human beings for what they are a man of 56 years old.... a middle aged woman... You talk about racism and pretend that it is a thing of the past and yet your entire society is based on race. You criticise the outspoken minister I can't even remember his name for bringing up the race issue which is so prevalent so real in America and yet the news media makes racial references every day in it's political reporting. There appears to be no American nation but groups of ...Black Americans... Latinos... and White Americans. It is so sad. If you study world demograrphics you will find the White Race is now the minority race when you add the peoples of Africa, India China, South America and indeeed even countries like America....The world is in the process of becoming one big melting pot.... The times they are a changing....

    July 24, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  8. Tommy

    Michelle,

    The link was already made with the "¡Si, se puede!’’ comment in the title. That chant is used by those who wish to legalize those who are illegally in this country. I was pointing out the fact that those who are illegal do not and should not have a say in the political process. By my statement I made no mention of ethnic origin or citizenship of those who do have the right to vote in this country.
    If "differnt groups" do not "differ that much in what is important to them", then why be part of a separate group?
    Given the diversity of Latinos /Hispanics/etc, why does eveyone presuppose that we are a voting bloc in the first place.
    "Obama oppenly supported the Kennedy-McCain bill, so their views on immigration are not tall hat different"
    You are correct, but they are both wrong.

    July 24, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  9. John

    Well, it is about time that we have the BEST overall president and not just the best white president.

    Obama'08

    July 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  10. walter redd

    To Cy,I really feel sorry for you.have you ever wondered why millions of people have to die first before most people recognise facts that have been staring them in the face for ever?.It is because of ignoramuses like you who continue to live in the past depsite the whirlwind of change blowing accross the entire human spectrum.You can bury your head in the sand and pretend it is not happenning but the blacks and the Hispanics are also Americans and are there to stay FOREVER and EVER and there is absolutely nothing someone like you can do about it.It is either Obama today or Gonzales tommorrow.It does not matter.The change is here and you can accept it or be blown away into a bitter life based on the past.You are the kind of person I put on voicemail......

    July 24, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  11. Michelle, CA

    To Tommy: Automatically linking Latino and Illegal together is just...wrong. There's MILLIONS of legal American citizens from Latin countries in this country, some of them naturalized and some of them native, but all of them U.S. Citizens with the right to vote.

    As a Latina voter though, I really don't understand what the big hoopla is. I'm also a woman, a californian, what else? Bottom line is American issues are American issues, so just focus on the issues, instead of thinking different groups really differ that much in what is important to them. And... Obama oppenly supported the Kennedy-McCain bill, so their views on immigration are not tall hat different.

    July 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Brittany

    wow to Cy...that's the ignorance that keeps people from accepting change. Even though Obama is black, we need someone who relates to the people and Mcain is the last person people will ever vote for. He's too old and he knows absolutley nothing about the younger generations which will cause trouble.

    July 24, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
  13. Tommy

    Unless you are legal and have the right to vote in this country, then, 'no te puedes.'

    July 24, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
  14. Michael Shea

    Although I have lived in Arizona and New Mexico for over 53 years except for four years in the military I have worked with and consider hundreds of Latinos my friends.

    There are many reasons why the Latino's vote Democratic.

    I am Irish-Catholic. Like the Irish Catholics, the latino's are very close to the Catholic Church. Catholics in general have historically voted Democratic The has always been a close alliance between the Catholic Church and the union movement. Historically the unions support Democrats.

    Most Latino's are workers. As a result many of them are union members and leaders.Although they disagree with the majority of Democrat candidates on the abortion issue, unlike the Christian Right and the evangelicals, the Catholic Latino's are more concerned about economic issues and Iraq and Afghanistan since so many of their daughters and sons are in the military

    The Latino's are the fastest growing demograhic group in the country and if their voter turnout improves in November, then all of Democrats running for office, including Obama, will do well on election day..

    July 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm |
  15. Loretta from California

    If true........The Latino vote will be the deciding factor in the upcoming election.......this will not bother me at all.

    July 24, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Cy Brown

    Obama will get spanked like a red-headed stepchild in November, Latino voters or not....I would suggest to the Latino voters that they get on board the winning express....and it isn't Barack Hussein Obama...

    July 24, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  17. MJR

    When will people in this country stop saying that Latinos will carry the vote, or that a Black person is running for President? No one has ever made comments about who will carry any Anglo running for office so why do they pick on Hispanics or Blacks? All this leads me to beleive that some people think only an Anglo can run this country. It makes me think about how much "racism" is still very alive in our country. What ashame that we can't get over racism in this day and age.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  18. Zee

    Eagerly awaiting the day when we overcome identity politics...but until then, Democrats are more aligned with the needs of the Latino community.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:30 am |
  19. Ken

    All this talk about the Latino vote is interesting, but, we still have to deal with the electoral college, which pretty much negates the individual vote. The electoral college needs to be eliminated, so in fact the people elect the president, hopefully Obama!!!

    July 24, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  20. Cindy

    OK...so now it is Latinos who will decide who wins the presidency!? UMMM...wasn't it white males a while back, then single women....etc.

    I hate when the media classifies people and tries to say that their vote will count more. The reality is we all pick the winner not just one race or class of people. So please stop doing articles such as this. If you want a united country then why are we always being divided into groups by the media!?

    Cindy....Ga.

    July 24, 2008 at 8:29 am |