How Mitt Romney Could Lure Latinos


"Two years ago I was good with one job," she said in Spanish. "Now I've got two jobs and I'm still not good."

"No ha hecho nada," she said of the president, shaking her head. "He hasn't done anything."

The Obama campaign argues that Romney's economic policies are "troubling."

"More budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy," Domenzain said. "Fewer rules for Wall Street – the same formula that benefited a few, but crashed our economy and punished the middle class, especially Hispanic families."

It's not just the country's economic problems and broken immigration promises that could hurt Obama. It's also voter turnout. Although the Latino population has grown by 43 percent in the past decade – and more than 50 million Latinos now live in the country – there are real questions about turnout this fall. At one point last year, some projections estimated that a record 12.2 million Latinos would vote in November, but last month new census numbers revealed a surprisingly steep decline in registered Latino voters. In 2008, there were 11.6 million registered Latino voters, but that number fell to 10.9 million in 2010. While 2008 was a presidential election year and 2010 was only a mid-term congressional election, that was such a sizable drop that the William C. Velasquez Institute now predicts that Latino turnout this fall will be "no higher than 10.5 million votes cast."

The nation's economic woes and an increase in residential mobility are two reasons for that, but an additional problem could be a lack of enthusiasm about this fall's election. According to the Latino Decisions poll, 46 percent of Latinos said they were more enthusiastic about voting in 2008, with only 38 percent saying they feel more enthusiastic this time around.

A whopping 53 percent of Latinos said they now feel less excited about Obama.

"Hispanics are disenchanted and there's an enthusiasm gap for President Obama that did not exist in 2008," Martinez said. "Part of this has to do with his broken promises to Hispanics, and part of this has to do with the fact that his failed economic policies have left millions of Hispanics without jobs and millions more in poverty."

Some Democrats have acknowledged fears about Latino turnout as well. In the recent interview in his Los Angeles City Hall offices, Villaraigosa outlined why he is worried about turnout this fall.

"I've said for some time I'm concerned about turnout among the broader electorate. You know it seems that every year the percentage of people voting in municipal, state and even national elections seems to be going down. But as you said among Latinos that's even more true," Villaraigosa said. "So we're going to have to work hard to talk to Latino voters to really make the case to really work hard to get them out to vote at a time when the other side may be discouraging them from voting. You know, over the last couple of years we've seen in states across the country they're making it more difficult to vote. The number of states who've passed laws requiring voter IDs with the purported goal of making our elections more secure, but with the effect of limiting and undermining the vote among the poor, elderly voters, and communities of color. So we do have our work cut out for us, there's no question about it."

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