Watch for ‘Sí Se Puede’ Signs at Obama Rallies
In 2004, President George W. Bush made a concerted effort to attract Latino voters, and was rewarded with about 40 percent of the Latino vote. Those votes helped Bush win battleground states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada, which all have large and growing Latino electorates.
In 2012, there is no sign that Mitt Romney will be able reach anywhere near 40 percent of the Latino vote, or even the 32 percent of the Latino vote John McCain garnered in 2008. Arecent poll by Latino Decisions and Univision News found Romney carrying only 25 percent of the Latino vote. Some of his stances — saying the Arizona immigration law is a model for the nation, or calling for the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act — won’t win him any points with Latinos. Poll after poll shows a clear majority of Latino voters oppose Mr. Romney on both counts.
So while the Republican contender is not poised to win over the Latino vote, this doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing for President Obama. Though he is generally supported among Latinos, a yearlong tracking poll by Latino Decisions and impreMedia showed the support to be shallow, and enthusiasm for Obama to be lower than in 2008.
In a poll this year, just 30 percent of Latino voters say they are more excited about Obama after three years in office, while 53 percent say they were more excited in 2008. Likewise, while 38 percent are more excited about voting in 2012, 46 percent told us they were more excited about voting in 2008.
For Obama to re-inspire Latino voters in 2012, he needs to do more than just make promises. As executive in chief, he has the power to direct immigration officials to stop deporting mothers of children who are U.S. citizens, or young people who wish to pursue their dream of a college degree or military service. In polls, three-quarters of Latinos want the president to stop deporting immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens and have families here in the U.S. and two-thirds of Latino voters support executive orders to stop the deportation of youth who would be eligible for the Dream Act.
If Latino voter enthusiasm, and ultimately turnout, is low, that is bad news for the president. This year, Latinos may decide the outcome in states where their population is new and growing, and the state is evenly divided. Forecasting models developed with America’s Voice Education Fund suggest that in places where the Latino population is small, Latino voter turnout will be the deciding factor. For example, assuming Latino voters break 3-to-1 for Obama over Romney, Romney can still win states like Ohio or Virginia if Latino turnout is low. However, if Latinos vote at record rates, as they did in 2008, Obama is likely to carry both Ohio and Virginia.
Thus, as the election season unfolds, keep your eye on how many “Sí Se Puede” signs you see — or don’t see — at Obama rallies.