Could Hispanics Tip the Balance in Key Races?



Perhaps there is no other state where candidates on both sides of the political aisle have historically courted Hispanics as much as in California. Latinos constitute about 21 percent of all registered voters in California, home to more than a quarter of all Hispanic voters in the United States.

Historically, Hispanics have split their support evenly between Republicans and Democrats, but in recent years that has tended to shift toward the latter. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has served in her current position since 1992, received 71 percent of the Latino vote in 2006, according to Pew statistics. In the same year, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger got 39 percent of the Hispanic vote for his reelection bid as governor, only a slight uptick from 2001.

In 2008, 74 percent of all Latino voters in California voted for Obama and pollsters say they could make a difference for Democratic candidates, if they turn up at the polls.

Despite her targeted efforts, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has lost considerable ground among this important voter group since allegations from her former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz.

Democrat Jerry Brown now enjoys a 29 percentage point advantage over Whitman among the group, 51-22 percent.

In the Senate race, which is considered a toss-up and could come down to the Hispanic vote, GOP candidate Carly Fiorina is attempting to frame the Democrat, Sen. Barbara Boxer, as anti-Hispanic, attacking her on the state's guest-worker program. But the Democratic senator is widely supported by the Latino community. A recent Field Poll found that 48 percent of likely Hispanic voters favored Boxer, 29 percent supported Fiorina and about 25 percent were undecided.


Colorado is home to one of the most neck-and-neck Senate races in the country, another that could be affected by Hispanic turnout.

Republican and Tea Party-favored Ken Buck and third party candidate Tom Tancredo have turned off many Hispanics with hardline stances on immigration, analysts say. At the same time, views toward incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet are also mixed.

The Hispanic share of the voter base has increased steadily. In 2008, 13 percent of voters were Hispanic, compared to just 8 percent in 2004. Latinos, as in many other states, voted for Obama in 2008 -- by 61-38 percent.

The Hispanic vote is decidedly in Bennet's favor. But it remains to be seen whether the minority group goes to the polls with the same enthusiasm as in 2008.


Democrats aggressively have courted Hispanic voters through the years. In 2008, they sponsored a soccer team called "Los Democratas." They have hired Spanish speakers to take part in grassroots campaigns and supported labor unions dominated by Hispanics, like the Nevada culinary union.

It was one of the states where candidate Obama campaigned aggressively and ended up winning 76 percent of the Hispanic vote, the highest in the country.

While Senate majority leader Harry Reid's outreach into the Hispanic community is not as high as it was in 2008, it is still more extensive than the outreach by his Republican challenger Sharron Angle.

Hispanics comprise 14 percent of all eligible voters in Nevada this year and could tip the balance in favor of the embattled majority leader.

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