With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize Latinos outraged by the foot-dragging on immigration reform an issue heightened by the unaccompanied immigrant children at the border crisis — to help them hold control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obamas final two years in office.
Contrary to conventional wisdom that Latino voter influence this November will likely be limited to a handful of mostly western House districts, Democrats increasingly have come to believe that the Hispanic vote could be crucial in several states with competitive Senate races.
Those states that could depend on the Latino vote include Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina Virginia and West Virginia.
In those states–though the Hispanic population may not be sizable–even a greater Latino turnout could be enough to be the balance of power to go along with the African American vote that Democrats are also attempting to energize.
Latinos are still neglected by politicians
At the forefront of the mobilization effort has been the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is heading up a coalition with a campaign called Movimiento Hispano.
We have anti-immigrant pieces of legislation, all over the nation, by the Republicans that are really affecting the quality of life of the Latino community, overall, says group spokesman Hector Sanchez.
Movimiento Hispano is about getting the basic element of democracy to the streets. We’re going to be mobilizing all over the nation. We’re going to make sure that we keep those politicians out that are anti-immigrant, anti-Latinos and anti-democracy, that are anti-all-the-basic-values of freedom.
Additionally, groups like Mi Familia Vota and Voto Latino are pressing their own campaigns to ramp up the Hispanic electorate.
Things havent changed from Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Obama, says Rodolfo Espino, a political scientist at Arizona State University.
Everyone talks about catering to Hispanic voters, but at the end of the day immigration reform hasnt changed.
The new Latino mobilization campaign hopes to offset the numerous advantages Republicans hold in this years races, in which polls show Obamas popularity at a record low and the GOP faithful much more engaged.
Latino turnout in midterm elections is also historically lower than in presidential campaign years.
Democrats have work cut out for them in the midterm elections
Meanwhile, the Democrats have their work cut out for them.
In the Senate, Democrats head into the election with a 55-45 advantage. This means Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win a majority.
Democrats have to defend 21 of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs this year, but seven of their seats up this year are in states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012.
Two current Democratic seats in Montana and South Dakota are already virtually conceded to Republicans.
The president and Democrats can campaign against the House and the (Ted) Cruz wing of the GOP in the Senate that A) theyre not working to solve problems, and B) these guys are sort of mean, says Democratic communications specialist Peter Fenn.
There can be some reverberations with that, and not just with Hispanic voters, I think.
In the House, an analysis by Latino Decisions concludes that Hispanic voters could decide as many as 33 narrowly contested seats, including 14 held by Republicans and 19 held by Democrats.
In Hispanic communities and on Spanish talk radio, Latino civic leaders have been Republican opposition to immigration reform, along with conservative attempts to impeach Obama, in urging Latino voters to show their outrage by voting for Democratic in the midterm elections.
The midterm (elections) are a difficult time for turnout for us, says LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. Presidential election cycles are easier, but this is a crucial midterm election. We have to make sure our voices are heard.