Minority Voters to Make Major Impact in Swing States

"This is what we call the barrio," says Freddy Torres from his pickup truck as he drives through the eastside of Pueblo, Colo.

The old steel town, 100 miles south of Denver, is still true to its blue collar roots, even though the mill was years ago turned into a museum.

"The people here aren't rich or powerful, many of them never even voted before, but these are the people we'll thank when Barack wins in November," he told ABCNews.com.

Torres, 53, is a retired state employee who volunteers for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, canvassing the town's largely Hispanic neighborhoods, registering voters and encouraging them to support the Democrats on Election Day.

In several closely fought states, like Colorado, the campaigns -- particularly Obama's -- are hoping that blocs of ethnic minority voters, like those being courted by Torres, will put them over the top.

Obama has made no secret that his strategy to become president involves winning the Western states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. All are swing states with large Hispanic populations, and all voted for President Bush in 2004.

In each of those states, Obama currently leads by a small margin. If Obama can carry those three states plus all of the states John Kerry won in 2004, he will secure 272 electoral votes, just over the 270 needed to become president.

Minority voting blocs are also being fought over in other states that could be decisive on Nov. 4.

In Florida, the Democrats are working to flip normally GOP-leaning Cuban Americans, while Republicans are trying to capitalize on the unease of some Jewish voters about Obama.

Black voters are expected to turn out in unprecedented numbers, potentially shifting the balance in such Republican strongholds as North Carolina.

Any one of these key states could potentially make the difference in the election.

Those who doubt the power of minority voters, particularly in the West, need look no further than Bush's wins there in 2004, says Frederico Pena, Obama's national campaign chair, who served as secretary of transportation and energy under Clinton and was the first Hispanic mayor of Denver.

3 Million Hispanics Expected to Vote for the First Time

"The lead Obama is showing in the polls in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico is absolutely attributable to Hispanic voters. Just as Bush made the argument that he won those swing states because he did so well with Hispanics -- getting about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote -- the same applies to Barack," Pena said.

In Colorado, Obama is leading McCain 52 to 43 percent, in Nevada 51 to 47, and in New Mexico, 53 to 40, according to polls compiled by ABC News.

"The group that tilts and selects a winner in close statewide elections in the West is the Hispanic vote, every time," Pena said.

Close to 3 million Hispanic Americans will vote for the first time in this election, according to Efrain Escobedo, senior director of civic engagement at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

"We are going to see the largest turnout of Latino registered voters in history. According to a NALEO poll in mid-September, 90 percent of registered Latino voters said they planned to vote. When Bush broke 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, it proved that Latinos are an integral part of the electoral map and they've grown since then," Escobedo said.

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