Despite pathetic attempts by the Romney camp to cater to the Latino vote, he will not win it in the states that count.
Latino voters are expected to turn up in unprecedented amounts for this Tuesday’s presidential election. Univision projected a Latino voter turnout increase of 25% since the 2008 elections. In swing states like Florida and New Mexico, Latinos represent 23% and 42% of the adult population respectively. Based on past trends, it has been projected that the Hispanic share of the nation's electorate will increase to 8.9% in the upcoming election.
The share of the Latino vote varies significantly in battleground states. In Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Maine Latinos are projected to be less than 4% of the electorate. But in New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, Latinos will comprise more than 16% of the vote.
According to Maria Cardona of CNN, President Obama is winning in battleground states. An October 17-20 poll of likely Latino voters conducted by NBC News with the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo had Obama at 70% to Mitt Romney's 25%. Other sources, specifically the Latino Decisions Interactive Map, have Obama winning the Latino vote by a slight lead in New Mexico but predict a “virtual tie” in Nevada, Arizona and Florida.
Despite this, Florida may surprise us and vote against Romney. Current predictions have Romney winning about 34% of the Latino vote, compared to Obama’s 52%. Florida is the only sizable and historically Republican Latino voting state, but there is growing diversity within the Latino vote there. Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans and even younger Cubans are voting for interests that are different from the typical old-school Cuban bloc in Florida.
Obama has said that Romney has alienated the Latino vote, and I completely agree.
Short from publicly dancing salsa with Victor Cruz, Romney has made pathetic and offensive attempts to appeal to the Latino community. At Univision’s Meet the Candidates event on September 19, he showed up with “brown face.” (I do not believe the lie that he just happened to be tanner than he has ever been before publicly.) In Florida, he released an ad tying Obama to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro in an outdated attempt to appeal to post-revolution Cuban sensibilities.
It is true that Latinos are frustrated with Obama regarding the slow progress in immigration reform. Under Obama, deportation rates have been higher than under George Bush. Recently, Obama told an Iowa newspaper that he believed immigration reform will be achieved in the next year if he is re-elected. Romney has criticized him over this point, but an educated voter is aware that candidates, both Republican and Democrat, make promises that may not hold weight against complicated Congressional loyalties. Romney, on the other hand, has not provided any viable solutions to dealing with immigration reform either.
In fact, Romney's appeal for Latino voters is lower than any of his predecessors'. In 2004, George W. Bush captured 40% of the Hispanic vote, while John McCain got only 31% in 2008. Romney’s harsh rhetoric regarding immigration has alienated Latino interests. He has vowed to block illegal immigrants from getting jobs so that they would ‘self-deport,’ and he has promised to veto the DREAM Act which is particularly popular amongst millennial Latino voters.
Still, it is important to understand the convoluted nature of myth of the Latino vote. As with most voting blocs, many different factors influence voting decisions. Latinos are not a monolithic group; they are defined by more than just their national origin and language. They hold different ideas about identity and politics. So while candidates must realize the increasing importance of the Latino vote, they must also realize its complexity and multifaceted nature in order to win it.