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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Losing The Latino Vote

Matthew Continetti is associate editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD


PLENTY OF COMMENTATORS, including yours truly, argued during the Democratic primaries that Barack Obama had shown a weakness with Latino voters which could last through the general election and help John McCain on Election Day. McCain, known for his strong support for "comprehensive immigration reform" including a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States, would be able to make inroads into this growing demographic group. The thinking went like this: When you combined Obama's perceived weakness with Latinos in the primary and McCain's strengths as a candidate, the Republican nominee could hope to do at least as well as, and maybe better than, George W. Bush's 40 percent of the national Latino vote in 2004.

Well, here's a revised prediction. That's not going to happen. Obama has already shown strength among Latinos in recent general election polls, strength that will likely continue through November 4. Obama will match John Kerry's percentage of the 2004 Latino vote, perhaps do better.

What's the reason for this revised prediction? I went to see the two candidates address the seventy-ninth convention of the League of United Latino Citizens (LULAC) in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. It was a study in contrasts. McCain spoke around lunchtime and received a polite welcome. LULAC officials noted the long-standing ties the senator has with the group and his support for immigration reform. The audience respected McCain. They didn't heckle and seemed open to hearing him out.

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