LatinaLista — It’s only been hours since Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency but there is already speculation among political pundits, and Latinos ourselves, as to how much the Latino vote actually helped Obama win.
What we know is that according to the Edison/Mitofsky Exit Poll 66 percent of Latino voters voted for the Obama/Biden ticket. And Angelo Falcon, president and founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy, seems to think that Latinos did impact the election.
However, since the Electoral College is based on the vote in each state and most are winner-take-all systems, the role of the Latino vote in key states appears to have been important. From the early exit polls, states where the non-Latino vote went for McCain and in which it appears that the Latino vote for Obama shifted the overall vote in favor of Obama were Florida, Colorado and New Mexico. These three states gave Obama 41 electoral votes of the 338 he had won as of this writing. More dicey are Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. In this sense, it appears that Latinos did not play the role of a “swing vote” in this election.
But what does this really mean for the future?
Does it mean that the Democratic Party is falling back into the good graces of the Latino electorate?
Does it mean that the Republican Party will be bleeding even more Latino votes in the future?
No, on both counts.
While the Latino electorate did overwhelmingly vote for Obama, it was because he was Obama.
It’s been recorded all along that when it comes to Latino voting behavior that (collectively) we are not loyal to any particular party — it’s always been about the candidate.
It’s for that reason that many Latinos suffer no guilt trip in switching political parties in the voting booth.
So, it’s pretty easy to see that if it hadn’t been for Obama on the ticket, the point spread between him and McCain among Latino voters might have been a lot closer.
Yet, Obama’s campaign did a lot of things right when approaching Latino voters that the McCain campaign did not do. The fundamental difference was Obama changed outreach strategies whereas McCain stayed the same.
Does this mean the Republicans have lost the Latino vote forever?
Not at all, but more than ever it has underscored that elections are not about political parties but the candidate and how he/she includes and listens to Latino voters.
Now, with Obama’s win, it just raised the bar for Latino voters in knowing what we want from a Latino politician running for higher office.