By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hispanic officials of both political parties have serious differences when it comes to immigration reform and economic policy, and those differences were highlighted at the political conventions over the past two weeks.
While Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was an important speaker at the Republican National Convention this past week in Tampa, Fla., San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro was wowing his own crowds at the Democratic National Convention here this week.
Republicans also benefited from the presence of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic woman to hold that position, and Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic Nevada governor.
Democrats, on the other hand, relied on the charismatic appeals of DNC Chairman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Salís and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
While GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama differ on issues like the economy, unemployment, immigration and national security, the two candidates have done all they can to cater to the growing Hispanic vote.
Some 131 million people voted in the 2008 presidential election, 5 million more than in 2004, and 2 million of those were Hispanics, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More than 2 million more blacks also participated in the election and about 600,000 Asians were registered voters, while non-Hispanic white vote totals went unchanged or even dropped.
“Latinos continue to reform the new political map of the nation, and Latino voters will play a decisive role in the 2012 elections,” wrote Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, in a statement. This organization advances the participation of Hispanics in the political process.
Vargas projects that the Hispanic vote has increased 26 percent since 2008 and that they represent at least 8.7 percent of the country’s voters in the upcoming election, a point both parties now understood.
“Each party has its personalities,” said Castro. “I wish Sen. Rubio and Gov. Martinez very well. The issue with Republicans is not their personalities — the issue is their policies.”
“They have been so backward on immigration issues, on education issues, on health-care issues and their policies would be the worst policies that Latinos have had in quite a while,” Castro told Florida Watchdog.
The latest Rasmussen poll, however, indicates that a majority of Americans do not agree with the Obama administration’s policies on these issues.
The poll was conducted over from Sept 3-6 with more than 1,500 respondents and a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
More than 54 percent of survey respondents say the economy is getting worse.
“Hispanic voters are going to vote based upon their core interests,” said Pedro Roig, a senior consultant with the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.
“There are regions such as California and the western United States that are more influenced by immigration issues. There are other regions where unemployment and the economy have much more sway,” he told Florida Watchdog.
“And there are regions where the third-generation Hispanic vote is more like the rest of the country, those who are more interested in economic issues.”
Latino Decisions reports in its latest survey that creating jobs and improving the economy are the most important issues for 58 percent of Hispanics. The rest focused on immigration, at 42 percent; education, at 19 percent; and health care, at 18 percent.
The survey was taken from Aug. 17-23 with 300 Hispanic voters from across the country with a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points.
This reliance on the Hispanic vote will not only be reflected in the presidential election, but in the 33 U.S. Senate seats which remain at stake in the 2012 general election.
Elections will be taking place in states with very significant Hispanic influence, including New Mexico and Nevada, both of which have Hispanic governors.
Interview with Castro:
Contact Marianela Toledo at Toledo.Marianela@gmail.com.
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.
— Marianela Toledo (@mtoledoreporter) September 4, 2012