Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why Latinos are key in election

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Mon October 1, 2012
Latinos take the oath of citizenship during naturalization ceremonies at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2008. Their numbers growing, Latino voters have growing influence in U.S. elections.
Latinos take the oath of citizenship during naturalization ceremonies at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2008. Their numbers growing, Latino voters have growing influence in U.S. elections.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: Four reasons why so many are focused on the Latino vote this election
  • He says Latino voters rolls have swelled, and they are well-represented in swing states
  • He says they skew Democrat, but may be open to GOP; immigration an issue either way
  • Navarrette: Latinos face Hobson's choice in election

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette. Watch "Latino in America: Courting Their Vote", premiering Sunday, October 7, on CNN at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.

San Diego (CNN) -- We start with the obvious question: Why do the media, political observers and presidential campaigns spend so much time talking about the Latino vote?

Many Americans resent the implication that some votes are more important or have more impact than others. (No one is saying that's the case.)

Still, why don't we talk with equal enthusiasm about voting by African-Americans or white evangelicals or left-handed senior citizens who live in Rhode Island?

Here are four reasons:

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

1. The number of Hispanic voters has been increasing steadily -- by 2 million since the last presidential election. An estimated 12 million Latinos are expected to cast ballots in November, up from 10 million in 2008. That could account for as much as 10% of the total number of ballots cast across all demographic groups.

2. Latino voters live in swing states that pick presidents. They are a major presence in four battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. While they are also a force in blue states such as California and New York and red states such as Texas and Arizona, their real influence is in the purple states.

Actor to Latinos: 'Wake up' and vote
Immigration issues and Latino voters
Grad student's illegal immigrant life
New laws' impact on Latino vote debated

3. Hispanics are up for grabs, more than African-Americans who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and white conservative Christians who usually support Republicans. While the majority closely identify with the Democratic Party -- a December 2011 study by the Pew Hispanic Center said 67% call themselves Democrats and 20% Republicans -- Hispanics have in the past shown a willingness to support Republicans with moderate views on issues such as immigration.

4. The Hispanic population will become more important and politically powerful. According to the 2010 census, the number of Hispanics in this country grew 43% in the last decade. Only one group is growing faster: Asian Americans. By 2050, Hispanics are projected to number 132 million and represent 30% of the population.

What questions would you like to ask the candidates? Share a short video question.

It's a new world. Look no further than the 23rd Congressional District in Texas, where Republican Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco and Democratic challenger Pete Gallego recently faced off in a debate in San Antonio. The debate was entirely in Spanish, a show of respect in a district that is 66% Latino and where 53% of residents speak a language other than English at home.

Unfortunately, there are still remnants of the old world. For that, we can thank both political parties who put their own interests ahead of everyday Americans -- with Latinos being no exception.

In this nation of immigrants, the federal government and local law enforcement officers now work hand-in-glove to round up and deport the undocumented. And this isn't just happening in Republican-controlled Arizona.

Thanks to a program called Secure Communities, which requires local police to submit to federal authorities the fingerprints of anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally (read: Hispanics), that kind of cooperation is now standard operating procedure from sea to shining sea. The program was started at the end of 2008, but it has been ramped up during the Obama Administration as a way of increasing deportation figures.

Latinos, according to the Pew study, are nearly twice as likely as the general public to support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. In the presidential matchup between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Latinos have a Hobson's choice between a Republican challenger who talks about getting tough on illegal immigrants and a Democratic incumbent who already has.

Of course, there is always the chance that Latinos don't consider immigration a top priority. But we have already been assured that they do. By whom? Why, by Democrats who use the issue to attack Republicans, and Republicans who use it to attack Democrats.

Back in the world of bad choices, if Latinos fall in line behind Obama, despite his record 1.5 million deportations and the dividing of hundreds of thousands of families, they will send the president a clear message: "Do with us what you will. We have no real influence and no power because we have no principles and no integrity. You can wipe your feet on our concerns, and we'll still support you."

If they vote for Mitt Romney despite his harsh rhetoric in the primary, they'll be saying: "It's OK to propose simple solutions, to demagogue the immigration issue, to twist your opponents' positions and to caricature immigrants as takers and a burden on society. We'll still take a chance on you as a better alternative to what we have now."

If Latino voters go down either path, there could soon come a day when we won't have to worry about discussing the power of the Latino vote -- because there may not be much power to discuss.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT