Voters in 10 states, primarily Republicans, will have a chance to participate in today’s Super Tuesday Republican primaries. Don’t count on much Latino participation though. In many of these states Latinos have increased in numbers, but their voter-eligible Hispanic populations are still relatively small.
Latinos in Massachusetts, for example, are almost 10 percent of the state’s population, but only 6 percent of the state’s eligible vote, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In Virginia, 8 percent of its residents are Latino, but only 3 percent of Hispanics can vote.
Some “Super Tuesday” states have seen enormous Latino growth; Alaska is an example. Hispanics have increased by 50 percent in the last decade – so now 11 percent of its residents are Latino. Yet only 4 percent of Alaska’s Hispanics can vote.
The Latino population is demographically “very young,” said Allert Brown-Gort, Associate Director of the Institute for Latino studies at University of Notre Dame. To put this in perspective, Voto Latino’s María Teresa Kumar said “50 thousand Latinos turn 18 every month.” For now, though, low percentages of Latino voters means the candidates have been pretty silent on Hispanic issues in most Super-Tuesday states.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has done well among Latino primary voters in Florida and Arizona, is in a neck-and-neck battle in Ohio with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Ohio, like many other Midwestern states, has seen its manufacturing base decline.
“Unemployment is an issue and poverty in the Latino community is still very high,” says Nanette Nieto, a Toledo, Ohio resident who works in sales.
The different Republican presidential hopefuls are setting their sights on different states today. For Romney, it’s Virginia, Vermont and of course, his home state of Massachusetts. Rick Santorum hopes he can energize the conservative voters in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and Newt Gingrich is hoping he wins his home state of Georgia. Ron Paul hopes he can have gains in the Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota.
All in all, the candidates hope their aggressive campaigns can wrestle as many of the 424 delegates across all the Super Tuesday states.
But the race has left candidates bruised and battled – an NBC News/WSJ poll found 70 percent of Americans polled used negative words to describe the Republican primary race.
Among Latinos, President Obama enjoys a “six-to-one” advantage among Republican rivals. Republican strategists, though, hope that once a Republican candidate is chosen, “all the Republicans will rally around their nominee,” as Latina strategist Jennifer Korn says, and then the race will be much more competitive.