Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Elusive Latino Swing Voter

Election day: a day of reckoning for the entire house and a healthy chunk of senators, governors and local officials.

Before the pundits jump in to explain the extent of the 2010 Republican wave, it's been interesting to see the role of the Latino vote in this year's contests. Immigration hasn't been as big a national issue as in other years, but there's still been a lot of buzz about the immigration debate and the role of the Hispanic electorate.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate in Nevada has come under fire for an ad some claim is overtly racist, and a previously unheard of outside group called "Latinos for Reform" ran an ad urging Latinos not to vote in Nevada.

Angle's opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been criticized for stating that he would pursue immigration reform ahead of a bi-partisan energy bill. The maneuver cost the support of Republican Lindsay Graham and essentially killed the bill, even though virtually all observers knew the chances of immigration reform going through Congress this summer were virtually nil. Critics say Reid's move was a cynical ploy to win Latino votes in his home state, and if they're right it explains why Reid is fighting for his life against an opponent who should be very beatable.

Both Obamas even took to the Spanish-language airwaves this week to do some last minute campaigning on Univision radio. All the noise made Andrew Sullivan ask, somewhat awkwardly, "Por quĆ© inmigraciĆ³n?," citing a piece by Ross Douthat of the New York Times that wondered aloud if Democrats really think they can win in 2012 on the immigration issue.

Douthtat writes: "in 2012 there’s little reason to think that the gains from mobilizing Hispanics around an (almost certainly futile) immigration reform push will count for all that much."

In fact, Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight, the reigning champ of statistical political analysts, broke down the 2008 election and decided that "the removal of the Hispanic vote wouldn't have changed the election outcome in any state."

Until that cold political calculus changes, I think the best bet is for several more years of empty promises.

Image Source: Vivirlatino
Online Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times, Andrew Sullivan/The Atlantic, Fivethirtyeight.com, The New Yorker, NPR, RealClearPolitics, Associated Press

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