Texas Showdown: Why Clinton and Obama Need Latin Vote

In Texas, voters can cast ballots early, before Election Day.

In Bexar County, they usually see about 15,000 ballots from early voting. This year it's a staggering 68,000.

Bexar Country Elections Commissioner Jacqui Callanen likened it to the holidays.

"It's like Christmas for us. The excitement and passion in this election is energizing. It keeps us going."

Latinos may well determine who wins Texas.

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When asked whether she feels "important," Lydia Camarillo said, "Of course it feels good to be in the driver's seat."

Camarillo coordinates a major Latino get-out-the-vote project and says the stakes are particularly high for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"I think she needs 60 percent of the Latino electorate that turns out to vote in her favor." Camarillo said of Clinton's prospects.

For the Velasquez family in San Antonio, two issues loom large: Iraq and immigration.

George Velasquez said, "All of a sudden, it seems like the Mexicans are the enemy, when I've got a grandfather who fought in World War I, numerous uncles who fought in World War II and Korea, Vietnam -- and we still don't get treated with respect."

But whom do they support?

"The youngest ones going for Obama, the more experienced, the wiser ones going with Clinton," Velasquez said with a laugh.

Political scientist Henry Flores of St. Mary's University in San Antonio said, "For Latinos, it's a style. The best candidate would take off their coat and roll up their sleeves and go into the crowd and be with the people. They love that."

A third of Latinos in Texas eligible to vote are between the ages of 18 and 29, which is good for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

But on Super Tuesday, Hispanics in California gave Clinton 2-1 support, which bodes well for her.

Politics is everywhere in Latin communities. At a border festival in Brownsville this weekend, it was all about politics.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and his son Eddie, a state representative, were out supporting their candidates at the parade, but they were supporting different candidates. Based on their ages, you can probably guess whom they're supporting.

They may disagree on whom to vote for but they don't disagree on which issues matter. This is a long overdue moment for Latino voters.

Eddie Lucio Jr. said, "Power is an incredible thing. The worst thing about power is to ignore it. If we take part in the political process I think we can be a driving force in who becomes president of this country."