It’s been nearly a week since the midterm elections, and if one thing became obvious in this past election cycle, it was that the Latino vote can make a key difference in tight races, especially in the Southwest, and that our community’s electoral impact has been underestimated by the traditional models.
On Thursday, I participated in a press conference call where leaders in the immigrant and broader Latino community discussed how Latinos delivered the West to the Democratic candidates and what this might mean in terms of laying the groundwork for 2012.
Some of the key themes were:
- With the Campaign for Community Change, there were 4 million reported contacts with voters. In the states of Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona, there were over 20 million targeted online impressions with GOTV (get out the vote) messages for the Latino community.
- There was a basic theme that our community will support those who have supported us, which was evident in the Harry Reid/Sharron Angle race in Nevada, where 90% of the Latino vote when for Senator Reid. In California in the Senate race between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina, Senator Boxer earned 86% of the Latino vote. And in Colorado, 81% of the Latino vote went to Michael Bennett vs. 19% for Ken Buck, which helped Bennett edge out the Tea Party candidate.
- In the Silver State alone, the Hispanic Institute’s Nevada 2010 project registered 10,000 new voters in Clark County alone and knocked on over 200,000 doors over the course of the year to encourage the community to come out and vote.
- In California, the Democrats won because they did not run away from the immigration issue and the GOP candidates underestimated the sophistication of Latino voters, who did not fall for messaging in Spanish that might have been different from the message in English.
- Because Senator Reid won in Nevada, there is an expectation that he will move forward with the DREAM Act during the lame duck session.
I do want to note the big exception to where Latinos deliver for the Democrats in tight races is in Florida, where the Cuban-American population leans GOP. In my view, this has to do with immigration being a non-issue. For instance, when a group can legalize themselves through “wet foot/dry foot,” immigration ceases to be as salient of an issue because they have access to a process to regularize their status. Senator-elect Rubio will be in an interesting position though, where he will have to start moderating his views on immigration because he will have to represent the whole state. And we have already seen Rubio attempt to do this by saying he now prefers the term “undocumented” instead of “illegal immigrants.”