Latino voters backed President Obama’s re-election in big numbers, helping the president carry several key states.
The result makes one thing abundantly clear: Republicans need to rethink their Latino outreach strategy.
Anchor Aaron Schachter gets more on that from The World’s Jason Margolis, who reported on Latino voters throughout the campaign.
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Aaron Schachter: I’m Aaron Schachter and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH-Boston. The 2012 election will be remembered first and foremost for giving President Obama four more years, but the results last night also marked a watershed moment for Latinos. They voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, and by many calculations the Latino vote was crucial in putting Mr. Obama back in the White House. The World’s Jason Margolis has been reporting on Latinos in the US for a few years now. And Jason, you’ve been to a lot of swing states where a lot of the Latinos are. Remind us, if you would, what role they played.
Jason Margolis: So Latinos make up around 10 percent of the electorate, and it’s estimated that 70 to 75 percent of Latino voters went for President Obama. If Mitt Romney had captured as many votes as George Bush in 2004.
Schachter: As many Latino votes.
Margolis: As many Latino votes, he would have won the popular vote, and depending on where those votes were cast, he could very well be the president-elect this morning.
Schachter: So we’re talking about states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado. Decisive battleground states.
Schachter: Now, you and others who follow this aren’t especially surprised by what happened.
Margolis: Not at all. I’m not surprised, because the polling data has been out there, I’ve been following it pretty obsessively, and President Obama has consistently been polling 70, 80 percent of the Latino vote.
Schachter: But if the Republicans knew this was going to happen, why did it happen?
Margolis: That is an excellent question. I asked a lot Republicans that very question. If you know that the Latinos are going to vote for the Democratic Party if you hold these positions on immigration reform, which is a large reason why they went for the Democrats. If you know this, and you know you need to capture the Latino vote to win the presidency, why are you doing this? So I asked Jacob Monty this question, in Houston, Texas. He’s a board member with the group Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
Jacob Monty: The Republicans need to wake up on this issue, because if they don’t, if their Hispanic numbers don’t improve, we’re going to become a minority party.
Margolis: So that’s one view. Let me just play you one more. This is Fernando Romero, who is president of the non-partisan group Hispanics in Politics in Las Vegas.
Fernando Romero: I feel dumbfounded as to the Republican Party. This would have been the time for them to open up their arms and say we welcome you into our fold. And yet, they have grown fangs and really have become incredibly anti-Latino and anti-immigrant.
Schachter: So Jason, if Republicans need Latinos to win the presidency in the future, how do they bring them over to the party?
Margolis: Well, what they tried to do, Mitt Romney tried to distance himself from his remarks during the Republican primaries. During the primaries, just to refresh your memory, he was in favor of the idea of self-deportation, that things will get so bad for undocumented immigrants that they’ll just leave. Many Latinos, Latino citizens as well as the undocumented, found this incredibly offensive. So Romney and the Republicans ran these commercials in a state like Nevada saying, President Obama has failed you and Mitt Romney is the one for comprehensive immigration reform. I spoke with Fernando Romero, the man we just heard from, again recently, and I said, what do you think of this new tack that the Republicans and Mitt Romney are taking?
Romero: These ads are condescending, because they don’t give us, the Latino community, any credit for thinking.
Schachter: So given this election campaign, is all hope lost for Republicans and Latinos?
Margolis: No. The group Latino Decisions did some polling, and they found that 31 percent of Latinos said they would vote for a Republican if the Republican Party took the lead on immigration reform. I spoke with some Latinos is Ohio this morning, and Ohio, like all the other states, voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. And first of all, they were jubilant that the President got re-elected. But I spoke with a man, Hugo Yurizar, originally from Paraguay, and I asked him, I said were you voting for the Democratic Party or were you voting for President Obama over Mitt Romney. And he said no, we were voting for President Obama. And I said, would you vote for a Republican in the future, and this is what Hugo Yurizar told me.
Hugo Yurizar: I believe that if the Republicans softened their rhetoric, and if they paid close attention to the needs of the Latinos, they can draw a lot of votes, Latino votes. Because a lot of people, a lot of Latinos, have some of the values that the Republican Party offers.
Schachter: You know, that’s interesting, because that seems to be what Republicans were saying during the entire election campaign. No, no, no we don’t have to talk to Latinos about immigration. Latinos are Americans, they care about the economy and jobs just like anyone else.
Margolis: That’s true. If you look at poll after poll, Latinos care about jobs and the economy first and foremost. But they do care about immigration reform. That is consistently their second most important issue. So really it’s going to be very interesting for the Republican Party. They’re going to have to look inside themselves and decide what is their identity. Do they want to compromise on immigration reform, or do they say no, this is who we are, we don’t want to give a pass to these estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants. This is what our party stands for. So they’re going to have to decide and it’s going to be very interesting which path they take.
Schachter: The World’s Jason Margolis on Latinos’ new-found political power in the United States. Jason, thank you.
Margolis: You’re welcome.
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