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Will Presidential Candidates Appeal to Latino Voters?

Saladin Ambar, assistant professor of political science, recently was interviewed by La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States. Ambar, who teaches courses in American politics and race, discussed how Latinos - and the Latino vote - are very much up-for-grabs in the 2012 general election.

The La Opinion article, entirely in Spanish, addresses the tremendous influence Latino voters will have on the election. While Barack Obama won 67 percent of Latino votes in 2008, polling indicates a certain disillusionment with his administration, as well as with Washington’s overall ability to listen to the needs of their voting block.

But while Latino voters feel unheard, Obama and the GOP must listen. Eligible Latino voters have risen from 18 to 22 million since the 2008 election. In that time, the Obama administration has, in fact, deported a record number of illegal immigrants and unemployment is higher among Latinos (11 percent) than the national rate. Meanwhile, no GOP primary candidate, even Texas governor Rick Perry, has connected with Latinos.

Ambar believes the general election will change perceptions. “As things stand, the Republicans are using language and ideas that generate little excitement among the majority of Latinos and other minorities," Ambar said. "Whoever the Republican nominee will be will have to return to a more reasonable political center.”

The fear of many courting this voting block, is that the Latino community’s disillusionment has led to apathy.

"There is no doubt the enthusiasm has diminished," Ambar said. “Latinos want comprehensive immigration reform, a focus on jobs and economic security. They also feel that Washington does not value them but once every four years during presidential elections."

Professor Ambar is the author of the forthcoming book "How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency." He is currently working on a manuscript on Malcolm X's participation in the 1964 Oxford Union debate.

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Friday, November 11, 2011

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