Latinos could decide the 2012 presidential election -- and they're unhappy with both parties

Here and Now

Ethnic Mexican revellers take part in the annual Hispanic Day Parade in New York on Oct. 9, 2011. Hispanics in the U.S. could swing the election this November. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.)

Few Latinos voted in Tuesday's primary in Arizona, but in Arizona and other swing states, Latino voters could provide the margin of victory to either President Barack Obama or the eventual Republican candidate come November..

Latino voters are growing in number, and many are unhappy both with Republican immigrant-bashing and Obama’s increased deportations of immigrants and his failure to follow through with promises of immigration reform.

So, just whom they decide to settle on, while far from certain, could end up making a big difference this election season.

Michael Scherer, White House correspondent for Time magazine, delved into this idea(http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2107497,00.html) recently for the magazine. He pointed out that because so many states in the western United States, like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, plus Florida which is not western but also has a large Hispanic population, are being contested in this election, it's highly likely that Latino voters, should they vote as a bloc, could swing the state to one candidate or another.

"They're going to closely contested. All signs point to a margin of victory that could be within 1, 2, 3 percentage points," Scherer said. "We have a situation right now where more than two-thirds of the Latino vote nationwide says the Republican party either is not interested in getting their vote or is hostile to their community."

In practice, that means the fight over the Latino votes has shifted to a great deal in the Democrats' favor, he said.

Historically, Democrats get about 50 percent of the Latino vote, while Republicans get about 25 percent. The two sides fight over the remaining quarter. But if that quarter swings in whole, or at least in large part, to the Republicans, it could mean big trouble for Republicans, Scherer said.

"That could add 2 or 3 points to Barack Obama's numbers in a state like Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and could easily put him over the top," Scherer said.

The surprising part is many politicians consider Latinos "natural Republicans," with many being anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. But because of Republican's rhetoric on immigration, many swing Latinos are fleeing.

"What's happened is the rhetoric around immigration — and it's really the way these issued are talked about more than the policy itself, has so turned off this community of people," Scherer said.

Scherer said Latino activists believe Republicans look like them on paper, but don't want Latino votes, while Democrats want Latino votes, but don't look like them on paper.

It's put Latinos in a difficult position.

George W. Bush in 2004 got 44 percent of the Latino vote — an historic high for Republicans. Then the debate on illegal immigration boiled over and Latinos have been leaving the Republican party since.

But they're not exactly flocking to Democrats — and Scherer said that all comes down to a broken campaign promise. In 2008, Obama promised he would put forth comprehensive legislation reform and he failed to do that.

"They pushed it aside. At the same time, Obama also followed through on another promise, which was to step enforcement of the immigration laws that exist on the book," Scherer said. "So we have a record number of deportations. A number of people in these western states know someone who has been deported."

Obama's campaign is now working hard to try and reach out to Latinos and rebuild those bonds.

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