Latino voters are poised to make a difference in Congressional races from coast to coast, according to a new study released Monday by a national organization pushing for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The group America’s Voice found that while Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2008, they remain up for grabs in the 2010 midterms — and that the disposition of Latino voters and the level of their turnout could prove pivotal in eight Senate races and 29 House races.
“Democrats have to figure out, if they consider Latino voters part of their base vote, how to mobilize them,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
Sharry and officials from the National Council of La Raza and the Service Employees International Union who joined him on a conference call with reporters Monday said Latinos share pocketbook and public safety concerns with other voters, but also put a high priority on the issue of immigration reform.
Democrats, the experts said, run the risk of alienating Latino voters if they don’t push hard for a reform bill in Congress this year. But by the same token, Republicans could see their share of the Latino vote continue to fall if they don’t tone down their hard-line anti-immigration rhetoric.
Sharry said that while anti-immigration forces are vocal, they’re not as large or as effective as they’re made out to be in the media. “It’s a coalition that doesn’t turn out votes, it just turns out fax machines,” he said.
Sharry said that in the recent Massachusetts special Senate election and the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial election, the Democratic nominees barely talked about immigration and did not do much outreach to Latino voters.
The Latino vote may be most crucial to the fate of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is trailing in all public polls. He is a vocal proponent of immigration reform — and small wonder in a state where Latinos made up 12.4 percent of the electorate in 2008 (and where Latino turnout increased 164 percent from 2000 to 2008). Other states where Latinos are poised to make a difference in Senate races, according to the study: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and New York.
America’s Voice also projects that the Latino vote will be a factor in House elections not only in those eight states, but in races in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.