Why Hillary Clinton Needs Latino Voters in Key Swing States

PHOTO: Carlos Zamora shows a voter registration card from a pile placed on the counter of the Tierra Caliente taco truck in this Sept. 29, 2016 image in Houston.PlayJohn L. Mone/AP Photo
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Hillary Clinton is making a major push for Latino voters in the final week of campaigning, with high-profile appearances today in Arizona and Nevada coupled with the launch of new Spanish-language radio and television ads.

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If she has any chance of winning these key battleground states, not to mention others like Florida and Colorado, it will be thanks to their sizable Latino populations.

Arizona has long been considered a deep-red state, so deep that Democrats in recent years have not bothered to invest major resources there. It hasn't been won by a Democratic presidential candidate in two decades, since Bill Clinton in 1996.

But this year the Clinton campaign thinks Arizona may be up for grabs, a new dynamic made possible by the state's Latino voters, whose numbers have grown to nearly 1 million, or more than one out of every five eligible voters in the state.

While they still represent a minority, the group heavily favors Clinton over her Republican rival Donald Trump. Controversial comments made by Trump -- including calling some Mexican undocumented immigrants "rapists" and questioning a federal judge's decision-making based on his Mexican heritage -- have weighed heavily on the minds of Latino voters.

More than six in 10, or 64 percent, of likely Arizona Latino voters said they planned to vote for Clinton, compared to just 24 percent for Trump, according to a recent CBS News/YouGov poll, which gave Trump a slim overall advantage of 1.5 percent.

Similarly, in Nevada, where Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the electorate, 56 percent of likely Latino voters favor Clinton, compared to 38 percent for Trump, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll that had the two major candidates in a tie.

Florida and Colorado represent two more critical states with large Latino populations that heavily favor Democrats. Latino eligible voters in Florida number some 2.8 million, or 18 percent of eligible voters, while in Colorado this group has grown to nearly 600,000 and now makes up nearly 15 percent of the electorate.

Across the country, the story line remains. Latinos are the nation's largest ethnic community with about 55 million people, more than half of whom were born in the United States.

The size and clout of Latino voters has exploded in recent years. The number of U.S. Latinos eligible to vote reached a record 27.3 million this year, an increase of nearly 4 million since 2012 alone, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Latinos now make up 12 percent of all eligible voters, another record.

The number of Latinos eligible to vote has increased at one of the fastest rates of any group over the past eight years, jumping 40 percent since 2008.

Going back a bit further shows just how dramatically this group has changed the face of U.S. politics in a short period of time. In 2004, Latino eligible voters numbered 16.1 million, meaning this group has added nearly 1 million new eligible voters every year for the past 12 years.

As in the state races, Latinos nationwide heavily favor Democrats over Republicans; 58 percent favor Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump, according to a Pew poll conducted in October.

Their influence will only continue to grow in the years to come. Nearly one of every four of our nation’s youth, the population younger than 18, is Latino, according to Pew. Each month, about 67,000 Latinos turn 18, or about 800,000 per year.

Even as Latinos become increasingly important in U.S. politics, one factor will determine their eventual impact: voter turnout. Latino voters have long had one of the lowest turnout rates of any group in past presidential elections, according to Pew.

Just 48 percent of Latino eligible voters turned out to vote 2012, and Pew's survey shows a similar number may participate this year. But in states where candidates run neck-in-neck, that could still be enough to make the difference.

ABC News' Josh Haskell contributed to this report.

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