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New Mexico

Obama, McCain Vie for Hispanic Voters in Battleground New Mexico

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has targeted New Mexico as a swing state crucial for Democrats to win in November.

The state has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents in the country. Obama touted this week the importance the Democrats are placing on winning over Hispanic voters, the fastest growing minority group in the country.

"If you have any doubt about whether you can make a difference, just remember how back in 2004, 40,000 registered Latino voters in New Mexico didn't turn out on election day," Obama said Wednesday night at the annual dinner of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, DC.

In 2004, Democrats lost New Mexico to President George W. Bush by less than 6,000 votes.

Obama promised that he would not take "a single Hispanic vote for granted" between now and November, arguing his campaign is trying to get an estimated 170,000 Hispanics that are not registered to vote in New Mexico ready to vote before November.

Both candidates are putting the full court press on New Mexico voters, and are spending time and resources trying to woo Hispanic voters that overwhelmingly supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, during the Democratic primaries.

So far Obama is leading Republican presidential candidate John McCain about 2-1 among Hispanic voters, but it remains to be seen whether Hispanics will show up to the polls this year.

The Obama campaign in Texas, generally a Republican stronghold, sought to get grass-roots volunteers to go to New Mexico this week.

"You've helped build an incredible organization here (Texas), and we'll continue to build our movement. But we also have the opportunity to use our organization to make a major impact on this election not only in Texas but in New Mexico," wrote Juan Sepulveda, Obama's Texas state director in an e-mail to Obama supporters.

McCain and Obama are both trying to court the increasingly important electoral bloc by reminding them of immigration reform legislation that failed in Congress.

Obama Wednesday skewered McCain for reversing course on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal he once strongly supported.

"If Senator McCain won't stand up to opponents of reform at his own convention, how can you trust him to stand up for change in Washington?" Obama said, noting that immigration reform was not a part of the Republican platform at the party's convention in St. Paul.

Meanwhile the McCain campaign is airing Spanish-language ads in New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, states with high populations of Hispanics, blaming Obama and Senate Democrats for the bill's failure.

While New Mexico has only five electoral votes up for grab, it has become an important battleground state with an uncanny ability to pick the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections.

In every general election since 1976, the presidential candidate won won New Mexico has won the popular vote in the national election.

The latest ABC news assessment shows New Mexico as a "toss up" that could go either Democrat or Republican.

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