- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Obama's Continuing Latino Problem

New America Media , Commentary//Video, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Jun 03, 2008

Editor's Note: The combination of the familiarity with Clinton and the still blurred notion of what Obama stands for remains a tormenting dilemma for him and the Democrats with Latino voters, says commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson. Hutchinson's new book is "The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House" (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

MEXICO CITY -- A day before the Puerto Rican primary election, I talked with several Mexican workers and business professionals during a visit to Mexico City. The subject was American presidential politics and the upcoming election. They had only the haziest notion that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was the frontrunner for the nomination.

They knew virtually nothing about his positions on the major issues, especially the hot button issue of immigration reform. They all readily recognized Clintons name and thought that if elected shed do a better job on the immigration question.

Their haziness in knowing that Obama was the odds on favorite to bag the Democratic presidential nomination and even their wariness toward him was not a surprise.

Three of the top newspapers on the newsstands in Mexico City -- Excelsior, El Universal, and Reforma -- made only bare mention of the Puerto Rican primary, and only passing mention of the aftermath.

The combination of the familiarity with and like of Clinton and the still blurred notion of what Obama stands for remains a tormenting dilemma for him and the Democrats.

Polls show that he will do well against Republican rival John McCain, but thats mostly because a majority of Latino voters in Texas, California, New Jersey, and New York are Democrats. These are all states in which Latino voters helped propel Clinton to a decisive win over Obama. In the contest against McCain, Obamas numbers pale in comparison to what Clinton would do against him.

But even before Clintons crushing win over Obama in Puerto Rico there were warning signs that Obamas Latino dilemma wouldnt go away. In Nevada in January, Obama got the endorsement of the leaders of the heavily Hispanic Culinary Workers Union. But getting the vote of the rank and file union workers was a far different matter, as the subsequent vote showed. Latino voters, many of them almost certainly members of the culinary union, defied their leaders and their votes made a big difference in Clintons victory in the state.

Obama spent months on the campaign trail, gotten non-stop media exposure, the nod of big name Democrats, done a victory romp through a dozen states, and piled up a seeming commanding number of delegates. Yet, exit polls still showed that his numbers didnt budge much with Latino voters.

The later endorsement of one time Democratic presidential contender Bill Richardson and a legion of leading Hispanic union leaders, elected officials, as well as top Latino entertainers still didnt push Obamas vote totals up.

Video:Latino stars sing for Obama

A May poll in California showed that Obama would beat John McCain handily. Yet forty percent of Latino voters still said they preferred McCain. This was not a small campaign footnote.

Latino voters make up about one quarter of California voters.

Their swelling numbers is almost certainly a major reason why McCain announced that he will not write California off even though a GOP presidential contender hasnt won the state since George Bush Sr. in 1988. The poll was no fluke.

In fact, Obama has marched in the exact opposite direction since the Super Tuesday primaries. Exit polls in state primaries between February and May show that Clinton has appreciably widened her lead among Latino voters over him by nearly six percent.

This poses an even bigger problem for Obama and the Democrats. Political tradition, logic, and numbers dictate that a candidate marching confidently to their partys nomination should and must have momentum going into the general election battle. The surest way to measure that momentum is by counting the numbers and by gauging the voter demographics. Put simply, the presumed party nominee must increase the gap over their vanquished party rivals for the nomination among the key voter groups they need behind them to win the White House. For the Democrats, those voters are blue collar whites, rural voters, middle class, college educated professionals, middle aged and middle-income white women, Jews, and African-Americans.

Increasingly, the most crucial group of all is Latino voters.

They now make up one in five Democratic voters, and could put the GOP strongholds, Texas, Nevada, Colorado and swing state Florida, in play for the Democrats. But thats only if the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee stokes the enthusiasm, passion and allegiance of Latino voters. The standard explanation for Obamas failure to light the match under them in the early campaign days was that Hispanic voters didnt know who he was. That explanation wont fly now.

Obamas heightened name identification, media boost, energizing change pitch and personal charisma has done absolutely nothing to dispel the mix of wariness, indifference, and outright opposition to him that I heard from Mexican workers and professional in Mexico City. That and the rejection of Obama across all groups of Puerto Rican voters in and outside Puerto Rico, once more points to Obamas Latino dilemma. That spells big trouble for the Democrats.

Related Articles:

Low Turnout in May, High Hopes for November

Puerto Rico Goes to the Polls

Immigration Reform Under the Next U.S. President

Where Do Latinos Go Now?

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Arts & Entertainment