Obama courts Hispanic vote in swing states

October 8, 2012



GOP rock star Marco Rubio generated ample excitement when he showed up here earlier this week to fire up Latino support for Mitt Romney, but he’s got nothing on Elena Squarrell.

Squarrell is among the thousands of Spanish-speaking volunteers for President Barack Obama in Colorado and nationwide, who for months have been quietly blanketing Latino communities — knocking on doors block after block, showing up at every festival and church gathering, camping out at high schools to register new voters. Soon the 28-year-old college researcher and her team of five will shift their attention to pushing voters to mail in their ballots in this early voting state.

With its half million potential Latino voters, Colorado is illustrative of Obama’s efforts across the country — and particularly in the critical battleground states of Colorado, Florida and Nevada — to drive up his margins among Latinos to try to win reelection.

The push with Latinos also exemplifies the president’s unrivaled micro-targeting strategy in swing states to reach every small slice of the electorate. This includes a targeted line of Obama products on his campaign website for everyone — from nurses to dogs.

So far, the strategy seems to be paying off with the nation’s fastest-growing demographic.

Latinos are now moving in large numbers toward supporting the president. The latest Latino Decisions tracking survey released Tuesday show Obama leading Romney, 77 percent to 23 percent. The Romney campaign strategy counted on 38 percent as its target share of the Latino vote.

Democrats have long had an advantage with Hispanics, but mainstream Republicans are nonetheless confounded that in an election this close, and with unemployment among Hispanics higher that the national average, Romney managed to alienate a demographic he sorely needs.

They point to Romney’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric during the primary season, his repeated vow to repeal Obama’s health care law, which a majority of Latinos support, and his now famous remarks complaining that 47 percent of voters are government freeloaders and “victims” with no sense of personal responsibility — a comment widely perceived as aimed at the working poor, minorities and ethnics. The Obama campaign is running tough ads here and in other battleground states, highlighting the comments, which won’t go away for Romney.

“It’s one thing when voters don’t like you, but quite another when they think you don’t like them,” says Republican consultant Alex Castellanos, who once worked for Romney.

Beyond the infamous “47 percent” fiasco, Castellanos contends that the party’s doom-and-gloom message is driving away Hispanics. “We have become the party of cranky, of dark predictions, and anti-everything,” he says. “I think this election’s dynamics are all set — and there is very little opportunity at this stage to introduce new themes and players. But there’s a new generation coming.”

Many Republicans privately agree that it is virtually impossible at this juncture for Romney to significantly diminish Obama’s standing among Latinos. In the battleground states, he trails Obama by 30 points among Latinos.

To read more, visit: http://hamptonroads.com/2012/10/obama-courts-hispanic-vote-swing-states

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