Thursday, February 7, 2008

California: Electoral Foot-print of the Latino

Media analysis of super Tuesday has underscored the significance of immigration as an issue and of the growing Hispanic vote. Even though John McCain didn't draw many Hispanic votes, his more moderate and sympathetic views on immigration continues to alienate him from the conservative GOP base. Even with Mitt Romney out of the race, McCain will still be under enormous pressure to reconcile himself to the right -- especially on immigration. That'll be a trick, since his strength is from the moderate GOP and independents.

The influence of the Hispanic vote is more clearly seen on the Democratic side, especially in California. Hillary Clinton drew twice as many Hispanic votes as Barack Obama. Together with women and older voters, Latinos gave her a substantial victory. (See LA Times article.) What attracted Hispanic voters was their familiarity with the Clintons and their unfamiliarity with Obama. The positions of both candidates, especially on immigration, are about the same and amenable to Hispanics. Obama was perhaps a bit late in recognizing the importance of the Latino vote. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

The long term significance, however, is not whom the Hispanic votes favor in 2008 but the large turn-out. In California it was 10% compared to 7% in 2006. The expectation is that with all the hyp from the primaries it will grow. But it's not just in the presidential nominating contest that the power of the Hispanic vote can be demonstrated, but also down to local races as well. In Cook County, Anita Alvarez won the Democratic nomination for state's attorney in a crowded field. She did garner the Hispanic vote on the Southwest and Northwest sides, but she also ran second in most city wards and county townships. This office has often been the most competitive between Democrats and Republicans, still Alvarez is an experienced and attractive candidate and likely to become leading Hispanic officeholder in the state. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

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