Every month at least 50,000 U.S. Latinos turn 18 and are legally allowed to vote, and that key statistic is greatly shaping the political discourse among Republicans and Democrats leading up to the 2012 Election Day. As February’s Time Magazine issue reported, the power of the Latino vote can ultimately decide who will win the upcoming presidential election.
The Obama administration has already started laying down the groundwork for their campaign targeting the Latino community. The President's campaign, “Latinos for Obama,” will launch on April 18th and will feature a conference call with comedian and longtime supporter, George Lopez.
In addition, Obama recently visited Colombia and joined pop star, Shakira, in a cultural event honoring the Afro-Colombian community in Cartagena. During his speech standing alongside Colombia’s President Santos, Obama declared, “Giving you and so many Afro-Colombian communities title to this land is part of ending this nation’s long conflict.” He added, “It gives you a new stake in a new Colombia. Not far from here your ancestors were brought and sold. Going forward, Colombia can realize its full potential by empowering all of its people, no matter what you like or where you come from.”
Besides his trip to Colombia, part of Obama’s strategy for targeting Latino voters includes addressing issues of immigration, education, and health care. With help from Colorado-based Latina consultant, Katherine Archuleta, Obama will develop a campaign that promises conditional amnesty for undocumented immigrants and affordable education by increasing the amount available for Pell grants.
The GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, has his own blueprint for wooing Latino voters. Although the presidential hopeful was strongly against The Dream Act, he painted a new picture for voters by declaring that he supports the bill specifically for soldiers who have served in the military, “I am delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents in this country,” he said.
However, the Republicans main focus for gaining popularity among Latinos has been tackling the job front full force. In the hopes of landing swing-states including Florida, Colorado, and Virginia, Romney has Hispanic outreach director, Bettina Inclán on his side to craft a blueprint for increasing opportunities for Latinos in the job force. Also, let's not forget rumors that he may pick a Latino to run as Vice President.
Still, Romney’s ‘self-deportation’ rhetoric and vetoing The Dream Act may be enough to keep him low on the scale of popularity among Latinos. Likewise, Obama’s immigration crackdown during the beginning of his presidency may leave some Latino voters distrusting his political promises.