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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Must Read:The Black-Brown Divide

By GREGORY RODRIGUEZ

I imagine he said it as if he were confessing a deep, dark secret. And, of course (wink, wink), he had no idea his little confession would make the rounds. But when Sergio Bendixen, Hillary Clinton's pollster and resident Latino expert, told the New Yorker after her win in New Hampshire that "the Hispanic voter--and I want to say this very carefully--has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates," he started a firestorm of innuendo that has begun to shape how the media are covering the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the heavily Hispanic Western states.

After the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses, in which Latino voters supported Senator Clinton by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1, some journalists literally borrowed Bendixen's analysis word for word before going on to speculate about Barack Obama's political fortunes in such delegate-rich states as California and Texas. Ignoring the possibility that Nevada's Latino voters actually preferred Clinton or, at the very least, had fond memories of her husband's presidency, more than a few pundits jumped on the idea that Latino voters simply didn't like the fact that her opponent was African American.

The only problem with this new conventional wisdom is that it's wrong. "It's one of those unqualified stereotypes about Latinos that people embrace even though there's not a bit of data to support it," says political scientist Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University, an expert on Latino voting patterns. "Here in Los Angeles, all three black members of Congress represent heavily Latino districts and couldn't survive without significant Latino support."

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