Will Latino voters make Nevada a “blue state” in this election, despite a tight race in a state which has seen high unemployment and foreclosures? Four out of five Latino voters — 78 percent — favor President Barack Obama in a recent Latino Decisions poll, an increase of 9 percent since June. Latino support for the Democratic senatorial and congressional candidates has also increased by 5 percent since June. Moreover, Latinos have increased their enthusiasm for voting in November by 19 percent since June.
David Damore, a political scientist out of the University of Nevada, says the fact that Mitt Romney has not won a single poll in Nevada “largely lies in the other narrative shaping the 2012 election: how changing demographics are reshaping political competition.” Latinos account for nearly half the population growth in the state. In 2010, Latinos organized politically against Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who was running against Senator Harry Reid. Angle put out a campaign ad which showed Hispanic-looking men crossing the border on an ad on terrorists coming through porous borders. Angle had also told Latino students at a high school she did not know they were Hispanic; since some of them “looked Asian.” Latinos mobilized and voted in large numbers for her opponent, Senator Harry Reid, securing his Senate re-election.
Damore argues the mobilization among Latinos to elect Reid “continues to pay dividends for the Democrats during the 2012 election cycle.” The Obama campaign, for example, has opened 25 field offices, versus only 11 opened by the Romney campaign. The Democrats have also bought extensive Spanish-language ads.
Republican Senatorial candidate Dean Heller, despite having positions on immigration to the right of Mitt Romney, is doing better among Latinos than Romney. Heller has 26 percent Latino support in the Senate race against Democrat Shelley Berkley, while Romney has 17 percent to Obama’s 78 percent. Damore says part of the reason could be that the Heller campaign is outpacing Berkley’s campaign in Spanish-language ads, many of them featuring Heller’s Spanish-speaking wife.
Damore says Latino demographics alone cannot guarantee political change, but it can occur if there is an “intervening variable — partisan outreach and mobilization,” which was the case in 2008 and 2010, when Latinos voted Democratic in large margins, and could happen again in 2012, if Latino turnout is high for Obama and the Democrats.