Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hispanic Voters Flex Political Muscle

The statistics he provides below really are astounding. Demographic change is happening really quickly. The trick is for people not to be afraid of it, but rather to see it as an opportunity like a number of politicos now see it. This, of course, makes the politics over immigration that much more murky, making it difficult to pass any kind of legislation out of fear of alienating folks (for instance, those who are pro-amnesty and anti-guestworker program-- like churches and immigrant rights groups and those who are pro guestworker programs).


Hispanic Voters Flex Political Muscle


September 15, 2007; Page A7

The first Spanish-language debate among Democratic presidential
candidates last weekend on the Univision network underscored the growing
political clout of Hispanics.

But only one Republican, Sen. John McCain, agreed to participate in a
similar forum for Republicans originally scheduled for Sunday, prompting
the network to postpone the debate indefinitely. Most Republican
candidates have taken a strong stand against immigration-overhaul
efforts and risked facing a hostile audience.

"We can't survive as a party without getting more of the Hispanic

--Matthew Dowd, Republican Strategist

* Vote: Which issue should get more attention in the presidential

* Review & Outlook: Hispanics and the GOP

The decision not to attend the debate could be seen by the Hispanic
community as a snub and underscores the feeling that Republicans are
turning away from Hispanics. That sentiment threatens to unravel the
gains made by President Bush, who has aggressively courted Hispanic
votes since his days as Texas governor, increasing his share among
Hispanic voters to about 44% in the 2004 election from 35% in 2000. Both
parties are already courting Hispanics. Democratic hopeful Barack Obama
and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have launched Spanish-language
radio ads in Nevada and Florida, respectively.

Here's a closer look:

How has Hispanic influence grown? Hispanics are the fastest-growing
minority group in America, at 14% of the population. But they now
represent 9% of the electorate because of lower citizenship and
participation rates. About one-third of the 44 million Hispanics in
America are too young to vote, while one-quarter aren't citizens. But
the immigration debate, which sparked massive rallies last year across
the country, is widely expected to boost Hispanic political
participation. Hispanics accounted for 8% of the electorate in 2006's
elections, up from 6% in 2002. Univision has promoted a national
campaign to get U.S. citizenship for one million legal permanent
residents and register them to vote. Citizenship applications were up
59% in the first five months of the year.

Which party has an edge? While about 85% of African-American voters
consistently weighed in for Democratic candidates during the past few
decades, Democratic support among Hispanics has slipped in recent years,
from 73% for Bill Clinton in 1996 to 53% for John Kerry in 2004.

President Bush and political adviser Karl Rove attracted Hispanic voters
to the Republican slate by emphasizing the importance of family and
culture and by calling for immigration overhauls. While Bob Dole won
about 21% of the Hispanic vote in 1996, Mr. Bush received double that
rate of support in 2004. Joe Garcia, the director of the Hispanic
Strategy Center at NDN, a Democratic political organization, describes
the GOP's gains as "one of the single greatest accomplishments in modern

President Bush and Mr. Rove had hoped that by building on those gains,
the Republican Party could become competitive in traditional Democratic
strongholds like California. But that strategy suffered a huge setback
earlier this year when House Republicans attacked the idea of an
immigration overhaul and pushed for tougher border enforcement instead.
Many Hispanics felt that the tenor of the debate stoked anti-Hispanic

Protestors march for immigration overhauls in Washington in 2006 as
part of nationwide rallies.

How could the Hispanic vote reshape the electoral map? Winning the
Hispanic vote could be important for either party because of the growing
numbers of Hispanics in such swing states as Florida, Nevada, Colorado,
Arizona and New Mexico, which all voted for President Bush in 2004.

Demographic growth appears to favor Democrats. Even if the Republicans
maintain President Bush's support among Hispanics in the 2008 election,
Democrats would win a 500,000 net increase in votes based solely on
population trends, according to a study by Democratic strategist Ken
Strasma and the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University. By
2020, four states that voted for President Bush in 2004 -- Nevada, New
Mexico, Iowa and Ohio -- would fall into Democratic hands. That would
have been more than enough to deliver the White House to the Democrats
in the last presidential election.

What effect could immigration have?

Republican opposition to immigration overhauls could further mobilize
Hispanic voters and drive them from the Republican Party, some analysts
warn. They see a parallel to California in 1994. That year, Republicans
passed Proposition 187, which denied illegal immigrants public services
but was later ruled unconstitutional in federal court. The measure
alienated Hispanic citizens and Republican candidates have fared poorly
in the state ever since. Three-quarters of Democrats favor more
restrictions on immigration, and three recently elected Democratic
senators, in Virginia, Missouri and Montana, voted against immigration
overhauls earlier this year.
* * *


* Foreign-born Hispanics accounted for 48% of Hispanic voters in
2004, up from 18% in 1988.

* The average age of viewers in last Sunday's Univision debate was
36. The average for English-language debates this year was 61.

* Largely because of Spanish-language Univision viewership, the 2006
World Cup Finals had more U.S. viewers than the 2006 NBA finals.

* George W. Bush spent $3.3 million on Spanish-language TV ads in
2004. John Kerry spent $1.3 million.

* A June Pew Research Center poll found 59% of Americans want to give
illegal immigrants a chance to be citizens.

* President Bush ran a 2004 Spanish-language television ad that
featured a song with the refrain, "I'm with Bush because he knows my

* To increase participation in next year's state caucus, the Nevada
Democratic Party has sponsored a soccer team, "Los Democratas."

Write to Nick Timiraos at

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