Latino Decision's state-by-state map. As of Monday, the group's… (Screenshot taken from latinovotemap.org )
For years, political analysts have predicted that Latino voters will determine who wins the White House, and this election is no different. So what should we expect Tuesday?
At least one poll suggests that President Obama will score big with Latinos, capturing a record percentage of that powerful voting bloc (Latinos make up about 10% of the electorate). A poll released Monday by Latino Decision and impreMedia found that 73% of likely Latino voters said they plan to cast their ballots for Obama, with 24% favoring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 3% undecided. If those numbers continue to track, Obama is looking at a historic showing, surpassing the 72% of Latino voters who went for President Clinton in 1996. The polling firm is a nonpartisan group that focuses on Latinos.
So what’s driving the numbers? Latino Decision’s Gary Segura and Matt Barreto suggest it’s Romney’s hard shift to the right on key issues, ranging from immigration to the economy, that has Latinos running from the GOP and toward the Democrats.
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That seems like a fair guess. Let's not forget that during the GOP primary debates, Romney carved out a pretty tough position on immigration and introduced Americans to the term “self-deportation." Romney later clarified his oft-misunderstood statement, saying that "we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead, let people make their own choice. And if they -- if they find that -- that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't -- and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go to a place where -- where they have better opportunities."
And I'm guessing Romney also failed to woo Latinos with his performance during the Feb. 22 GOP debate. When asked about Arizona's noxious immigration law and embattled Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's enforcement tactics, Romney suggested that Arizona was a model.
"They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally."
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He went on to say that as a result of the law, "the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14%, where the national average has only gone down 7%. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing."
Nor was Romney's opposition to the so-called Dream Act a winner for Latinos. The bill that would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who are college students and military service members has repeatedly been voted down.
But the question remains: Will Latinos' support for Obama be enough in key battleground states? Stay tuned.
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