What Super Tuesday Means for Latino Voters

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Mitt Romney won six nominating contests on “Super Tuesday,” called this because on this day, ten states hold their primaries or caucuses on the march toward a party naming a Presidential candidate. Romney’s frontrunner status is in question, although he won the states of Massachusetts, Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, Virginia, and Ohio.  This last one he won by the most razor thin margin--a fraction of one percentage point or a few thousand votes--beating Rick Santorum who took North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  Newt Gingrich owned his home state of Georgia, tallying 47% of the vote--about 20 points more than Romney, who came in a distant second.

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If Romney has the experience having faced off and lost the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination to John McCain, has the muscular, disciplined campaign, and crucially the money, why can’t he seal the deal with primary voters?  The two most popular theories are that Republican primary voters who trend more socially conservative, doubt the former governor of Massachusetts is conservative enough.  They are suspicious of his “evolving”--to not say flip-flopping views--once supporting women’s reproductive and gay rights and now opposing them, plus signing into law the health care reform legislation in the Bay State that became the template for President Obama’s federal version.  Also, some Evangelical Christians are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormon faith which they view as a cult and not Christian.

Without Romney delivering a knock-out punch on Super Tuesday, the GOP nominating contests slog on.  That includes those where there are more Latino voters.  Puerto Rico’s primary is on March 18, New York’s is April 24, Texas’ has been postponed to May 29, and California’s is on June 5.

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The candidates are trying to secure delegates, or the local representatives each state sends to the National Republican Convention in Tampa this August.  The popular vote in each state is important because with some exceptions that award delegates by divvying up the results, the candidate who wins the most ballots captures all these representatives in a state--a system that’s called “winner takes all.”  The person to reach the magic number of 1,144 delegates clinches the Republican Presidential nomination.

While Latinos vote largely Democratic--President George W. Bush made significant inroads in 2004 which President Barack Obama in 2008 got back), a drawn-out Republican primary season means the candidates will be fighting to win every vote in the remaining thirty-two contests.  Hispanic voters will have yet another--and a larger chance--to flex our political muscle in November when the Republican nominee challenges the President in the general election.  Expect to see candidates savor enchiladas or lomo at campaign stops in the Fall, even hear them speak a little español.  Just make sure they’re walking their talk on the issues that matter to you.

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