When looking at elections, demographics are always one of the major focuses. Politicians will try to reach out to certain demographics that they are lacking support in. Certain demographics are considered swing demographics because they can go Republican or Democrat. The key battleground demographic for the 2012 elections is Latino voters.
Latinos are a crucial voting block for two reasons. They are a large and fast-growing minority; currently, they make up about 15 percent of the population. Also, Latinos can swing Democrat or Republican elections. The Latino vote could make or break a candidate during an election. For example, in the 2004 elections, George W. Bush received 45 percent of the Latino vote, which gave him enough votes to win the presidency. Senator John McCain only received 31 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. Making such a meager gain with an important demographic doomed the McCain campaign; McCain lost despite gaining 55 percent of the white vote.
Part of Obama’s electoral coalition in 2008 was Latino voters, yet Obama is in danger of losing this demographic. Unlike the African-Americans, over 90 percent of whom consistently support the President, Latinos may turn on Obama in 2012. One reason is that Obama has failed to offer any immigration reform. The DREAM Act failed to receive enough support in Congress. This law would give permanent residency to certain illegal immigrants and its passage could give Obama a huge boost among Latino voters. Another reason is that Obama is deporting illegal aliens at record numbers, far surpassing the Bush administration’s rate of deportation. Both of these factors will make Obama a tough sell in 2012.
Romney hasn’t done any better at capturing the Latino vote. Recently he has been showed trying to court Latinos for his 2012 bid, yet he will have to answer for past actions. He went on record saying he would veto the D.R.E.A.M. Act if it were passed while he was president. He also praised the Arizona immigration law, which is unpopular among Latino voters. Even Tea Party favorite and Latino Marco Rubio did not support the law. Obviously, this will not fare well with Latino voters. It will prove difficult for Romney to align with the hard right conservatives of the party while also gaining the support of Latinos.
Both candidates’ support of Latino measures will come across as political stunts. That’s because they are; Obama and Romney do not have immigration reform on the top of their agendas. Still, the Latino vote is crucial and both candidates will fight to get it. A key battleground state is Florida, which has a large Latino population. The state has always had a large number of Cubans who consistently voted Republican because of their anti-Communist views. However, as a new generation of Cubans comes of age, the days of Castro are less remembered. A report shows that there are 100,000 more Latino Democrats than Republicans. Still, this discounts independent voters. This still gives Romney a fighting chance in the state. But one thing is abundantly evident: the Latino vote will play an important role in deciding who wins the 2012 elections.
Jack Barnett is a third-year student majoring in history and political science. He can be reached at JB723722@wcupa.edu.