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The 2014 Vote

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Latinos No Longer Thrilled by Democrats

October 30th 2014

Democrats have lost their grip on Hispanic voters heading into Election Day—and in turn could lose the Senate because of them.

Even though Latinos split heavily for their party in 2012, mounting evidence suggests Hispanics could sit the midterms out after immigration reform has fallen from the White House agenda.

"There's no question it's going to affect Democrats in this midterm. There's no one to blame but Democrats themselves," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Hispanic engagement group Presente Action.

A Pew poll out Wednesday revealed Democrats suffered an eight-point drop in support from Hispanic voters nationwide since 2010, down to 57 percent. Meanwhile, Republicans gained six points over the past four years, with 28 percent now saying they support a generic Republican House candidate.

The new survey provided hard numbers for the anecdotal evidence that President Obama's delay of executive action to halt deportations of illegal immigrants is coming back to haunt Democrats.

The frustration with the president and his party among Hispanics is palpable and increasingly visible. In recent weeks, Obama has faced multiple hecklers shouting their frustration after the White House punted an executive order until after the November elections.

Carmona said he's already seeing fallout from the prolonged inaction and broken promises from President Obama and congressional Democrats on immigration reform, and that "the president's ongoing broken promises have certainly depressed the engagement in the Latino community."

"We're fighting an uphill battle here," he added.

Presente Action has launched radio ads hitting Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for opposing executive action on deportation, and also targeted vulnerable Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) with Facebook ads on the same.

He said the aim of the campaign wasn't to keep North Carolina Hispanics home — rather, he wants them to go to the polls, but perhaps think twice about supporting Hagan.

But it seems Latino voters need no prodding. Hagan has faced multiple protests from immigration activists frustrated with her record, with two jumping onto the stage at one of her Sunday campaign events.

And a recent Latino Decisions poll found the vulnerable North Carolina Democrat’s margin with Hispanics to be worse than the Pew poll’s national margin. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic registered voters polled earlier this month said they would or were leaning towards voting for Hagan, while 26 percent said the same of her GOP opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. Another 26 percent were undecided.

In the Tar Heel State, Hispanics make up 3.4 percent of the eligible vote, according to a Latino Decisions analysis — and with the race nearly tied with less than a week to go, Hispanics could make the difference in the end.

Colorado has been ground zero for efforts to mobilize the Hispanic vote since they make up 15.4 percent of the eligible electorate this cycle.

In 2010, Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) took 81 percent of their support, giving him a 6-point boost overall, according to an analysis from Voto Latino.

A recent Latino Decisions poll suggested Sen. Mark Udall’s (D ) not running as strong with Hispanics, with  66 percent saying they either plan to or are leaning towards supporting him, 17 percent saying the same of Rep. Cory Gardner (R ) and 16 percent undecided.

Udall’s internal polling shows things even closer, with 57 percent of Hispanics supporting him and 30 percent backing Gardner.

That makes the efforts to turn out Hispanic voters all the more pivotal for the endangered Colorado Democrat.

Gardner has taken steps to appeal to Hispanic voters, expressing support for the Senate immigration reform bill and joining just 10 other House Republicans Republicans to vote against a GOP measure to end deportation deferrals for DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought into the country when they were children.

In debates, the Republican routinely accuses Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) of choosing to push for climate change regulations rather than immigration even though Democrats hold control of Congress and the White House.

While Udall was one of the first Democratic senators to criticize Obama for delaying executive action on deportations, Gardner’s efforts have largely neutralized the immigration issue, and the candidates don’t speak about it much more than they’re asked.

Hispanic activists have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of focus on immigration reform in the race.

Elyseo Medina, president of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a nonpartisan Hispanic mobilization group, said he thinks elected officials not just in Colorado but more broadly this cycle have been too feeble on immigration issues.

"The politicians sometimes get so fearful about the voters that instead of responding to what people want, they tend to play it safe. Or in the case of challengers, they tend to want to use it as a wedge issue," he said.

It’s not just Colorado where the Hispanic vote could prove to be decisive —and where Democrats could find themselves lamenting a missed opportunity after Election Day.

A Latino Decisions analysis found that in six Senate battleground states, the Hispanic share of the electorate is wider than the average margin in polling between the two candidates. Those states include Georgia, Alaska, Iowa and Kansas.

In Georgia, Hispanics make up 4 percent of the vote, and Republican David Perdue leads Democrat Michelle Nunn are separated by far less than that in recent surveys.

And in Kansas, the deep-red state made competitive for Democrats by Sen. Pat Roberts's (R ) surprising vulnerability, Hispanics make up 6.1 percent of the eligible electorate. Roberts and independent Greg Orman have been knotted up well within that margin.

But it’s difficult for these candidates to appeal to Hispanics because the immigration reform issue remains so toxic in red-leaning states that engaging in the debate could be damaging.

The National Council of La Raza and their Georgia and Kansas affiliates are engaged in get-out-the-vote efforts. Still, they’re operating in largely uncharted territory and it’s difficult to predict the impact they could have.

Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, notes that in many of these states not typically thought of as having a significant Hispanic voting population, candidates' efforts to court the demographic can be too little, too late.

"Typically we see in states like Kansas and Georgia that the candidates are behind on Latino outreach," he said.

Compared to Colorado, where there's a longstanding history of Hispanic outreach, "in places like Georgia and Kansas, where it's a newer phenomenon, candidates are doing less."

Alexandra Jaffe writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.


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