Obama taking Latino vote seriously
President Obama recognizes that he needs the Latino vote to win in 2012, and he has wisely chosen a superb Latina to be the political director of his re-election campaign.
Katherine Archuleta is a veteran politico with deep community roots and connections. One of her signature efforts, the Latina Initiative in Colorado, increased voter turnout among Latinas by nearly 5 percent. She’s also the departing chief of staff of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a woman known for her unwavering support and commitment to working- and middle-class Latinos.
In 2008, Obama relied heavily on the votes of blacks and independent voters to carry him to victory. However, in the midterm elections, uneasy about the economy and high unemployment, both groups preferred the couch to the voting booth.
This, however, was not the case for Latinos, who set a midterm election record with a turnout of more than six million. In heated races such as Nevada, Latinos helped Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat back a challenge by tea party candidate Sharron Angle, who hoped to use anti-immigrant rhetoric to galvanize voters to the polls. Latinos also helped carry three Latino Republicans to major statewide offices in Nevada, Florida and New Mexico.
In order to win in 2012, Obama will need Latinos to turn out in record numbers. In 2008, Obama garnered 67 percent of the Latino vote. In 2012, he will have to capture a larger portion of the vote to account for the potential loss of independent voters and others who have lost hope in the “change” promised in 2008.
Among Latinos, Obama still has a hurdle to jump with voters going into the 2012 election: specifically, his failure to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise of comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, the passage of anti-immigration legislation such as SB 1070 in Arizona has only made the need for action at the federal level more urgent.
Because of citizenship issues and their young age, Latinos are still not voting in numbers proportionate to their percentage of the general population. For the Obama campaign, the key will be to galvanize eligible Latino voters by letting them know that their vote carries more weight because of the many that are unable to cast a ballot.
The Archuleta appointment sends the message that Obama and his team will take the Latino vote seriously.
C. Nicole Mason is the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.