Since the last presidential election, nearly 2 million Latino voters have turned 18 throughout the United States. In Nevada in 2010 alone, the Hispanic population rose to 26.5 percent. This increase in population had a great impact on the makeup of the Nevada electorate. Of the 26.5 percent, Latino voters represented 9 percent of the electorate in 2010.
Both Obama and Romney are obviously conscious of these numbers given their recent efforts to speak to Latinos in key battleground states through rallies and Spanish television advertisements.
So, how is this extremely important and growing group making their decisions? Lets look at some recent developments that may be influencing their votes…
Nevada’s economy was hit hard during the financial crisis of 2008 and has been struggling ever sense to get back on track. Currently, Nevada ranks second in the nation in foreclosed homes and has the highest unemployment rate in the country. This is a startling fact as the Latino unemployment rate under the Obama administration is already the highest in the country at 8.1 percent. On education, the Hispanic drop out rate continues to be higher than the national average – with one study estimating as high as 28 percent.
Four years ago, Obama won the state by an easy margin of 12 percentage points. But after being promised change and hope, the state has seen little improvement. Will they give President Obama one more chance at restoring their economy or will it be too little too late?
“Better off a Latino”
Last week a private Mitt Romney fundraiser speech went public and became the video seen all around the world. Comments that were meant for a select group of high net worth donors were exposed to voters all across America. This video did nothing to help Romney’s “out of touch rich guy” stereotype as he said winning the election would be easier as a Latino.
Latino voters who were just starting to look past Romney’s stereotype were frustrated and surprised by these comments. Especially when Romney said he wishes he were Latino because he thinks it would be helpful to his quest and give him a better shot at the presidency.
Referring to his father, George, Romney said:
“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico … and had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”
Ruben Navarette, a Latino CNN contributor, said he is tempted to respond to these comments with:
“Mitt Romney thinks it would be helpful if he were Latino. Well, Mitt, I’m Latino. And I think it would be helpful to me if I were worth $250 million. Wanna switch?”
The question for the coming weeks is: Will Romney be able to move past these comments or did they sting a little bit too deeply for Nevada Latinos to look past them in November?
The Third Party
Robert De Posada, founder of the conservative political action committee Latinos for Reform (LFR), suggested that Latino voters chose neither Obama nor Romney. He feels that both parties have failed Latinos as neither have advanced or supported immigration reform. He has said, “Don’t vote for those who have betrayed you.”
Most recently, De Posada has come out and said to Latino voters:
“I’m telling people to vote for Gary Johnson, a third party candidate, the Libertarian candidate for president,” de Posada said, from his office in Madison, Va. “And I’m saying if you can’t do that then don’t vote. Latinos should not vote. Not for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney anyway.”
De Posada described Gary Johnson as a one-time Republican governor of New Mexico, who has long been an advocate of immigration reform, sensible and human treatment for undocumented immigrants and creating a legislative solution to the nation’s immigration crisis.
De Posada recently told The Huffington Post that both parties have “made a study of manipulating and taking for granted Latino voters.”
In support of his 2012 cause, de Posada is sending op eds to English and Spanish language newspapers in key swing states with large Latino populations, including Nevada. He is scheduling talking sessions and events on college campuses in the same places, and publicly backing Johnson.
Will this sentiment stick with Latino voters? Given that approximately 80 percent of Latino adults agree that immigration reform is essential, many more may agree with influential De Posada than expected.
So, what are the current numbers? Right now, Latino polls in Nevada show that the race between Obama and Romney is a virtual tie. It is going to be a tight race to the finish – be sure to keep checking Destination 270 for all of the latest updates!