Latinos voted in record numbers in last week's presidential election and threw their support overwhelmingly behind Democrat Barack Obama. Nationwide, 67% cast ballots for Obama -- compared with the 44% who voted to reelect President Bush in 2004. Moreover, a staggering 76% of young Latinos, ages 18 to 29, voted Democratic, according to exit polls.
The results upend strategist Karl Rove's plan to create a permanent Republican majority with socially conservative Latinos. It turns out the bloc is up for grabs.
Although a majority of Latino voters started the election year as supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and many were skeptical that an African American president would be good for them, like much of the rest of the country they ended up putting the economy ahead of race or social issues and booting out the incumbents for Obama's promise of change.
In now-blue states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, many Latino voters have suffered housing foreclosures and seen their small businesses battered by the economic crisis. But they have an additional issue: immigration. Although they are U.S. citizens, most have a relative, friend or co-worker who aspires to become a legal resident. When undocumented immigrants are insulted or threatened, Latino citizens feel they are branded too.