Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Texas Hispanic Vote Bellwether for General Election

With Obama starting to overtake Hillary in a Texas primary still too close to call, both candidates are courting Hispanics. Where their votes go on Tuesday may say a lot about the Hispanic electorate in November.

In Texas, the Hispanic vote is keeping Hillary from being blown out. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday found Obama up 50 percent to 46 percent among all likely Democratic voters; the previous Monday Clinton was up 50 percent to 48. Statistically, too close to call

But it would be an Obama rout if not for Clinton’s bid edge among Hispanic voters, about a quarter of Texas’ eligible voters.

CNN polling director Keating Holland said the senator from New York “may win roughly two-thirds of the Latino vote,” and a Texas A&M/Latino Decisions Poll released Tuesday had her up 62 percent to 22 percent among Hispanic voters, with 13 percent undecided.

Still, the momentum is Obama’s. There is lots of talk about a generational split among Texas Hispanic Democrats, with the older establishment sticking with Hillary after years of loyalty to the Clintons, and the younger generation infatuated with Obama. With a disproportionately young Hispanic electorate (31 percent of Hispanic eligible voters in Texas are ages 18 to 29, compared to 24 percent of all Texas eligible voters, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study released last week), it could spell trouble for Clinton

And, maybe, for John McCain

Say Clinton holds on to a 30-point lead among Texas Hispanics, wins the primary and eventually the nomination. She then starts off against John McCain with the usual advantages — but little more than the usual advantages — that Democrats carry into battle with Republicans for the Latino vote

Yes, the Clinton name will still carry weight. But McCain is the only Republican who ran for president with any possibility of getting close to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, a number that former Bush operative Matt Dowd has famously said is essential for a Republican to win the White House.

Whether McCain comes close to that is up to him. Clinton has pretty much hit her peak among Hispanic voters — in November, she will not improve on the 73 percent she won in the primary in her own state of New York. But McCain can whittle away at her lead.

The Arizona Senator was the only one in the pack of Republican candidates who unambiguously said No to the nativist fantasy of deporting 12 million illegal immigrants; and he sponsored the comprehensive immigration reform bill derailed by his own party.

Of course, that won him the enmity of the Republican hard right, a badge of honor to anyone except, I guess, somebody running for the presidency as the GOP’s candidate. That is why McCain has now shifted positions to say comprehensive reform should only come after securing the border.

Which is fine. Even if you believe a secure border is part of comprehensive immigration reform and not something separate, let the man say what he thinks is necessary for him to say about that. As long as McCain’s subtle shuffle does not turn into outright pandering to hard line conservatives, he has a shot at giving Clinton a run for the Hispanic vote. Remember, no Republican expects to win it — high thirties is the good enough.

There is another scenario, however: Clintonite fears about young Hispanic voters turn out to be true, Obama sweeps to victory in Texas with about half the Hispanic vote, and then goes into the general election riding a high crest of enthusiasm among all voters, even Hispanics who were once Hillary’s safe bet.

And in that case what McCain does in the primary, and even memories of McCain standing up to the nativists at the risk of destroying his own candidacy, will be swamped by a surge of Obama fervor that will continue to feed on itself, growing bigger and bigger

If Obama can cut significantly into Clinton’s lead among Texas Hispanics, it will spark off something across the nation. Everywhere with a large Hispanic electorate (except in South Florida, where Obama won few fans with his eagerness to meet unconditionally with Raúl Castro) Obama can wrack up big margins against John McCain, the kind he is not getting now against Clinton
Bigger, actually, than Clinton herself can ever wrack up against McCain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hernandez, with regards to your article on Barack Obama and Affirmative Action (published in the Press Enterprise, on June 27th 2008) you made some very strong and reckless assumptions. What makes you think affirmative action is high on the agenda of ALL minorities? Do you really think that just because someone is black, Latino or any other person of "color" that he/she is entitled to special social amenities like that offered by affirmative action?

Mr. Hernandez it seems to me that you are in a time wrap and stuck in the 1960's. Affirmative action is a complex issue, no doubt. To give it its proper light and time to discuss would take volumes of writing here. However, I can say that your article and what appears to be your position on the subject reflects an antiquated stereotype of Latinos: that all of us (including other minorities) are star struck on affirmative action. Wrong!

Many of us do not share the same perspective and sentiments on the issue as you do. Let those who are worthy of a Harvard education, for example, obtain such based solely on their merit and nothing more. Allowing the undeserving and the under qualified to attain things they should not have, while excluded the qualified and deserving is a moral crime.

Enough already. Let us earn what we have, based solely on merit and not because my name happens to be Martinez or Sanchez. Ya basta.

We've come a long way thanks to my ancestirs who were trail blazers here in the USA during the 50s, 60s and 70's. But they would never want us to demand that we be given something that we have not earned or deserved: affirmative action.

It's truly reverse discrimination and there is no place for it.

Thank you,

David Martinez
Riverside, Ca