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The Challenge and Opportunity of Latino Voter Mobilization

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As we have documented, both margin and mobilization are of critical importance to determining the impact of Latino voters in the 2012 elections. Today, a range of observers offer advice to President Obama and Republicans on how to improve their numbers with Latinos.

Political analyst Charlie Cook examines new Gallup polling on the presidential race and emphasizes warning signs regarding Latino mobilization that could hurt the Democrats, concluding that, “On one level, the presidential election is a fight for the hearts and minds of independents in the middle. For the Obama campaign, though, the second fight is to get young and Hispanic voters to show up. The intensity of four years ago is hard to find today.” In the polling cited by Cook, Gallup finds that Latino voters support President Obama against Mitt Romney by an average of 67%-24%.  However, as Cook notes, “The important caveat is propensity to vote. Gallup asked registered voters to rate, on a 10-point scale, how likely they were to vote in November. Eighty-one percent and 82 percent of non-Hispanic whites indicated 10. For African-Americans, it was almost as high: 79 percent and 75 percent chose 10. Among Hispanics, though, just 58 percent in the front half and 65 percent in the second half put their propensity to vote at 10.  This data suggest that Obama is on track to replicate his performances in terms of support among African-Americans and Hispanics. The Hispanic-turnout problem, though, is very real.”

Gary Segura, political science professor at Stanford University and a principal of Latino Decisions polling firm, warns that immigration is a personal, defining issue for Latinos.  He tells PBS, “The path for victory for the Democrats with respect to Latino voters is baiting the Republicans into saying awful things. The president has widely disappointed Latino voters through the failure to pursue immigration reform through unprecedented deportations. But he can credibly claim to be better than the alternative when the alternative is saying horrible things.”  For Republicans, Segura notes, “In some respect, Republicans could do better among Latino voters if they don’t bite at the immigrant provocations from the Democrats. That silence would improve the circumstances for Latinos voting Republican.”

Columnist Ruben Navarrette notes, “‘Trouble’ is defined differently for each candidate. In polls, Romney is having trouble getting as much as 30% of the Latino vote. Political observers note that a Republican presidential hopeful needs at least 35% to win. Obama has more than twice that level of support but his problem is that there’s an enthusiasm gap and, if Latinos don’t turn out for Obama, Romney will win.”  Navarrette goes on to offer advice for each candidate, saying, “Gov. Romney, stop pandering to racists and nativists in the GOP base by portraying illegal immigrants as takers; acknowledge that the only thing that lures them here are jobs provided by U.S. employers who need to be held accountable; stop proposing simplistic solutions like saying that all illegal immigrants should ‘self-deport’; and take up the cause of American businesses who can’t find U.S. workers to do jobs that immigrants wind up doing because parents are raising their kids to feel entitled to avoid hard work. President Obama, stop saying you don’t have the executive power to stop deportations when it has been established by a slew of legal experts, including nearly 100 law professors who recently sent a memo to the White House, that you do. Stop deportations of college-age students who would have been eligible for legal status under the Dream Act and the parents of U.S.-born children; stop portraying Republicans as singlehandedly preventing immigration reform, and take your share of responsibility for not getting it done; and propose to Congress a specific plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Do all that, and we’ll be able to get past immigration and move onto other topics. Jobs. The economy. Education. The environment. Whatever you want. But immigration comes first, because it lets us assess your character. Or lack thereof.”

National DREAM Act activist Cesar Vargas writes in The Hill of mechanisms by which President Obama can provide administrative relief to DREAM-eligible young people and notes, “At the end of the day, Latinos are in Obama’s camp, but they aren’t guaranteed.  It’s up to the parties to see who will craft a better deal for what is shaping up to be the most important voter block this cycle. President Obama is outspoken on Latino issues, but he has not shown earnest effort on behalf of Latino voters, many of whom have undocumented family members and friends. The Obama Administration must stop being fearful of Republicans and stand up for itself because excuses will not get people out to vote; action and leadership will.”

America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.