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Latinos flex voting muscle


Date published: 11/9/2012

By Franco Ordonez

McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

WASHINGTON

--Latinos helped deliver President Barack Obama's re-election Tuesday with near-historic support. In return, they're demanding an immigration overhaul and are warning both parties, particularly Republicans, that it's time to get on board and pay closer attention to their issues.

Latinos accounted for 10 percent of those who voted Tuesday. They backed Obama with 71 percent of their vote nationally, compared with Mitt Romney's 27 percent, according to exit polls. It was the highest level of Latino support since President Bill Clinton received 72 percent of their vote in 1996.

Obama arguably won the election in part because of Latino support in the swing states of Colorado, where he carried 75 percent of Latino votes, and Nevada, where he received 70 percent.

"Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House goes through Hispanic neighborhoods," said Clarissa Martinez, the director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza.

Activists such as Martinez think the election is such a game-changer for Latino issues that Republicans have no choice but to return to the negotiating table and confront the immigration problem.

Latinos are the country's fastest-growing minority bloc. Nearly 900,000 eligible Latino voters turn 18 each year.

Even before Obama was named the victor Tuesday night, Republican strategists were calling for a new approach.

"I said this in the spring. In the summer. Biggest mistake was going hard right on immigration. Paying price," John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked on the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, tweeted about Mitt Romney.

Attention has turned toward rising Republican star Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who could serve as the catalyst to bring the sides together.

On Wednesday, he said "Republicans need to work harder than ever" on immigration issues.