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Hispanic Vote 2008: The New Kingmaker?

Hispanic Vote Delivers Colorado, Florida and New Mexico to Obama

HispanicBusiness, News Report, Richard Kaplan Posted: Nov 07, 2008

Demonstrating their new potential role as kingmakers on the American political scene, Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers for the 2008 presidential election on Tuesday. Across the country, the Hispanic electorate overwhelmingly cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama, for president, potentially providing the margin of victory in key states. Overall, Sen. Obama gained 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, took about half of that, receiving 31 percent.

Highlighting this kingmaker role of the Hispanic electorate, Erica Bernal, Senior Director of Civic Engagement for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) declared, "it was the increase in Latino turnout, particularly among young Latinos and newly naturalized citizens" that helped shift formerly red Republican states, like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, and Florida, over to Sen. Obama.

Ms. Bernal concluded, "Latinos have helped reshape the political map."

According to NALEO, the election saw more than 2 million new Latino voters. Despite this increase, the relative share of the electorate that was Hispanic remained at 8 percent, the same as in 2004. This reflects the fact that while the Hispanic vote expanded in this election cycle, so did the general electorate, Ms. Bernal said. Both campaigns worked hard to register and turn out supporters in this year's battle for the White House.

Ms. Bernal argues that the Hispanic vote properly should be understood as a swing vote that was not tied permanently to either party. In 2004, President George W. Bush claimed 40 percent of the electorate, compared to Sen. McCain's 31 percent. It was the dire state of the economy that shifted Hispanic voters, as they registered their agreement with Sen. Obama's campaign argument that "electing Sen. McCain would result in another four years of failed-Bush-economic policies."

Looking in more detail at specific states, the exit polls show that Hispanic voters in New Mexico made up a stunning 41 percent of the electorate. They cast their vote 69 percent for Sen. Obama compared to 30 percent for Sen. McCain. Effectively, the Hispanic vote provided Sen. Obama with a 16 percent edge over his opponent. Without the Hispanic voter, Sen. McCain would have taken New Mexico.

In Colorado, the Hispanic share of the vote was 17 percent, and they cast their vote 73 percent for Sen. Obama and 27 percent for Sen. McCain. That vote handed Sen. Obama a 7.8 percent advantage, which again gave him the margin of victory.

In Florida, Hispanics broke from their usual Republican support and voted 57 percent for Sen. Obama and 42 percent for Sen. McCain. As 14 percent of Florida's vote, that meant a 2 percent advantage to Sen. Obama, who took the state 51 percent to 49 percent.

While Sen. Obama overall won 67 percent of the Hispanic electorate and Sen. McCain 31 percent, there were significant differences among Hispanic age groups. Overwhelmingly younger and newer Hispanic voters sided with the Democrats. That trend, however, reflected the patterns among the general U.S. electorate, where many young voters, ages 18-29, favored Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain by an impressive 66 percent to 32 percent.

According to exit poll numbers, young Hispanics, ages 18-29, voted 76 percent for Sen. Obama and 19 percent for Sen. McCain. Those 20-44 years old, voted 63 percent for Sen. Obama and 36 percent for Sen. McCain. Ages 45-64 were 58 percent for Sen. Obama and 41 percent for Sen. McCain, while the oldest voters, 65 years and up, were 68 percent in Sen. Obama's favor and 30 percent for Sen. McCain.

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