By Silvia Uribe
The booming Latino population in political swing states is giving headaches and creating new opportunities for both political parties as they go after the Latino vote. The Republican and Democrat tactics to win independent Latinos over, at this stage of the race, have to be well thought out.
Most definitively, the perspective of politicians who not only want, but need the Latino vote, has changed. The Latino vote has become, little by little, a precious commodity. Traditionally, Latinos in the U.S. have not been considered a political force. However, today things are different, and the Latino vote stands as a swing vote that might just decide who is elected President on November 4. Interestingly enough, the mainstream media is not talking about this fact.
But media or not, it is not surprising that Obama and McCain have made appearances and given speeches in the past few months at the League of United Latin American Citizens' conference in Washington, the National Council of La Raza, in San Diego, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens). McCain even showed up at the Basílica de Guadalupe in Mexico City in his quest to be more appealing to Latinos.
According to a research done by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos are the largest and fastest growing minority in the U.S. with 46 million, 15% of the total population.
Although many Latinos in the U.S. are not able to vote, either because they are not citizens or because they're not of age, this large minority will comprise about 9% of the eligible electorate nationwide, meaning that one in every nine voters will be of Latino origin in 2008.
This same study indicates that 57% of those registered to vote are Democrats or have an inclination for the Democrat party, and 23% align with the Republican Party. Polls report that Republicans are scoring points on traditional issues of faith and national security. But their generally anti-immigrant position is frustrating for many Latino voters, as one can imagine. As for the Democrats, Obama has used the theme of diversity to argue for immigration reform and economic policies aimed at the Latino working class. In general, the issues relevant to Latinos do not vary dramatically from the issues of non-Latino voters: the economy and jobs -undoubtedly top concerns - followed by education, immigration, health care, crime, and the war in Iraq.
Even though some polls give Obama an ample margin over McCain, something to take into consideration is the fact that polls often do not offer interviews in Spanish. I have been able to confirm this fact when pollsters call my number.
In nine states - New Mexico, California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and New York, the Hispanic share of the electorate is approximately 10% or greater, according to the New Democratic Network. In California the Latino vote represents 19% of those who are registered to vote.
It will be interesting to see whether Latino leaders will leverage this political weight to advance the Latino community and its causes, or if they will let the opportunity go.
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective .
Who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.orgCross-posted at Edhat.com