In 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated the American population as follows :
a little more than 300 million inhabitants, and among them : 44.3 million Hispanics (about 14.8 %) and 40.9 million African-Americans (about 13.4 %) .
These figures confirm a well-known fact : the Latino vote is going to be crucial in November, even more than the African-American vote. And contrary to what is happening with Blacks, Obama could well have troubles winning the Hispanic vote.
First of all, let's precise that during the primaries, Hillary Clinton won the Hispanic vote handily, and this enabled her to win great victories in states like California, Florida, Nevada, or New Mexico.
She was supported by a lot of Hispanic celebrities, from Eva Longoria, the "desperate housewife" :
to America Ferrara, the famous "Ugly Betty" :
John McCain has been quick to react, understanding immediately that he could turn to his own advantage his opponent's weakness and win some important swing states like Florida in November thanks to a strategy consisting in courting Latino voters.
The ad on immigration he has just released (in Spanish) is certainly part of this strategy : it clearly accuses Obama of being no friend of Hispanics' although he says the contrary. It is entitled "De nuestro lado" ("On our side") but in fact, it aims at proving that Obama is not "de su lado".
The McCain campaign began running this advertisement on Spanish language television stations in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico over the weekend.
Here is the script, as translated by The New York Times :
A male announcer says: “Obama and his allies in Congress say they are on the side of immigrants, but they’re not. Reports in the press say that their efforts were like ‘poison pills’ that caused immigration reform to fail. The results: ‘No’ to the guest workers program; ‘no’ to a path to citizenship, ‘no’ to secure borders. The reform didn’t pass. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies — ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to govern.”
On the screen, the spot switches among montages of Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats (Harry Reid of Nevada and Patrick Leahy of Vermont) and Hispanic-looking voters and hazy images of federal buildings as onscreen writing flashes statements like “De Nuestro Lado?” ( “On our side?”).
What was the bill in question which died in 2007 ?
It would have overhauled the nation’s immigration rules by creating a temporary worker program, a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal workers already here and provisions to tighten border security. Members of both parties took the blame for introducing amendments that ultimately killed the carefully developed compromise based upon an initial bill that Mr. McCain had helped draft
Before its fate was sealed, President Bush, who was pushing hard for its passage, directed much of his rhetoric against Republican opponents who dismissed it as “amnesty.”
Mr. Obama did support several Democratic provisions that were among those ultimately blamed for undermining it. He introduced an (ultimately losing) amendment curtailing a proposal to award green cards based on a point system that valued education and job skills more than mere family ties. And he joined with most of the Senate Democrats to support an amendment supported by labor groups and widely viewed as harming the bill by limiting the guest worker program at its core.
That is why today many Hispanics still resent him.
Moreover, there are other factors too that could lead Latinos to vote for the McCain / Palin ticket in the general election.
McCain’s record of work with Hispanic issues is extensive. He has travelled to Latin America numerous times and is well informed on Latin American issues, from his own firsthand experience and his National Hispanic Advisory Board.
Obama has never set foot in Latin America.
McCain supports free trade with Latin America and South America, and its mutual benefits to the economies of all countries involved.
Not surprisingly, Obama does not. He opposes free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. He repeatedly has touted his refusal to support NAFTA, though we’ve seen a shift recently in his anti-NAFTA tone, much like many of his stances, as he spends his time flip-flopping on many issues.
The number of Hispanic-owned companies in the U.S. is important and has kept increasing over the last few years : small businesses comprise 98 percent of all businesses. With approximately 2 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. generating nearly $300 billion annually for the economy, McCain’s economic policy brings promise of even more growth to Hispanic businesses. Under his plan, small businesses can flourish without the burden of high taxes whereas Obama is in favour of more taxes.
And of course, as McCain's ad says, the fact that Obama blocked this bi-partisan reform that Hispanics approved of can also explain why they preferred to vote for Hillary. Moreover, they also chose her because she appeared cloder to the issues and values that they hold dear as a community : indeed, on social issues Hillary Clinton can sometimes appear a little conservative, and they trust her.
Not knowing Obama, not knowing where he stands on topics as he changes his mind all the time, it may appear difficult for Hispanic voters to trust him !
So Latinos will probably prefer to vote Republican this year...
And they will have to wait another four years to see the person they cherish most in the White House again...