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What’s Driving the Latino Vote?

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Today’s LA Times story, “Economic strife drives Latino vote,” details the percentage points that Latino votes are likely to swing the outcome of the election in key Western battleground states. According to the article:

Latinos make up 32.4% of registered voters in New Mexico, 11.4% in Nevada and 9.9% in Colorado. The institute examined data from eight polling firms and found that Obama’s lead over McCain in Nevada would be 42.4% to 40.7% without Latino voters — a difference that’s within the margin of error. Include Latino voters, however, and Obama’s lead grows to 50%, versus 43% for McCain. […]

In New Mexico, McCain has a 4-point lead without Latino voters, and Obama has an 8-point lead with the Latino vote. And in Colorado, a statistical tie without Latinos jumps to 51% for Obama versus 45% for McCain when Latinos are included.

But while the LA Times is right in stressing the importance of the economy to Latino voters, it misses a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to what is driving this new demographic. The significantly larger Latino and immigrant citizen turnout we’re set to see this year is also a direct result of large-scale voter mobilization efforts by campaigns and organizations like the We Are America Alliance.

In the wake of the 2006 and 2007 immigration marches, new citizens and their children are mobilizing once again. They are fed up with an immigration debate that has turned them into scapegoats for all our nation’s ills while failing to fix our ailing immigration system.

In short, these swing voters are being mobilized to the polls by the immigration issue, even if the economy remains a top priority for them.

According to the article: “The McCain campaign had hoped to grow support among conservative Latinos by emphasizing “family values” issues, such as his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as the candidate’s history of support for comprehensive immigration overhaul. […]”

Well, new polling about the Latino Evangelical vote shows that , even among these most conservative of Latino voters (over 60% of whom voted for Bush in 2004), immigration, as an issue, is on par in importance with abortion, and more important than same-sex marriage.

According to the poll:

82.8 percent [of Latino Evangelicals] say a candidate’s position on immigration is important in determining their vote this year (54.6 percent say very important).

Candidates beware: come January, this new voting bloc will be demanding that the next president make real strides to bring his party on board to fix our dysfunctional immigration system, not just our dysfunctional economy.