With re-election of Reid, Latinos in Nevada send warning shot to Washington

What Congressional Republicans were hoping to be the biggest symbol representing a rejection of President Obama ended up being flatly denied to them by the Latino vote, ensuring re-election of Harry Reid against Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle. 

In many ways, the Nevada Senate seat was primed for the taking since Harry Reid plainly lacked the luster of a charismatic leader during this election cycle.  That ended up being overridden by Sharron Angle’s bizarre and racist campaign tactics demonizing Latinos, which stood in stark contrast to the strategic investment that the Reid campaign made with agressively courting the Latino vote-something that has proven to yield big dividends for both parties in the past. 

Coupled with pushing forward the DREAM Act just before the midterm elections and with a big grassroots get-out-the-vote effort to mobilize Latinos to vote for Harry Reid on the part of many Latino grassroots organizations that became enraged at Angle’s racist tactics, the strategy paid off big for Democrat Harry Reid on election night.  

According to Daily Kos reporting on election night, 16% of the Nevada electorate was Latino, which represented the highest on record for that state, sending a resounding message to Washington politicians that plan to score points in the future by demonizing Latinos and other immigrants.  The Latino vote spoke loudly from Nevada: there will be consequences to pay for your bigotry.

Update: Representative Luis Gutierrez had the following to say on Politico.

“Latino citizens responded to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s aggressive pursuit of immigration reform by voting for him in overwhelming numbers,” he said in a statement. “They were clearly the difference in his victory.”

Latinos made up 12 percent of Nevada voters, with 90 percent of them supporting Reid. Angle got only an 8 percent sliver of their support, according to a Latino Decisions poll.

Gutierrez said Reid deserved Hispanic support for his efforts to pass immigration reform in a hostile environment.

“He embraced immigration reform as his issue and many called him crazy because of it. When we went to him and said it was time to call for a vote on the DREAM Act, he immediately put it on the schedule. He stood by us. He fought for Latinos and immigrant voters and for sensible immigration reform that establishes the rule of law. Facing some of the most vicious political attacks I can remember, he responded with conviction and courage,” Gutierrez said.

Also, America’s Voice Online published this interesting analysis regarding other races across the nation:

Based on election eve polling of Latino voters by Latino Decisions, it is clear that Latino voters provided the margin of difference in a number of key races. Check out some of these interesting figures:  

  • In the Colorado Senate race, Michael Bennet’s Latino margin over Ken Buck was 81% – 19%.  Latino turnout was up from 9% of the electorate in 2006 to 13% in 2010.
  • In the California governor’s race, Jerry Brown’s Latino margin over Meg Whitman was 86% – 13%. 
  • In the Colorado governor’s race , John Hickenlooper’s Latino margin over Tom Tancredo and Dan Maes was 77% – 14% – 9%.

According to the election eve polling which was conducted in eight states (AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, NM, NV, TX), Latinos voted for Democrats over Republicans by roughly 75%-25%, or in other words,  a three to one margin.  This means that overall, Latino immigrant voters (foreign-born, now naturalized citizens) supported Democrats by even larger margins. 

Contrast that to just six years ago, when Latinos voted for the Democratic nominee John Kerry over President George W. Bush by 59% to 40%, or a three to two margin.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, precisely that in just six years there has been a huge swing by the fastest growing group of voters in the country away from Republicans and towards Democrats.

But there is also a warning sign for Democrats, given what happened in Florida’s elections this week.  Though President Obama won the Florida Hispanic vote in 2008, in part by stating he was strongly committed to comprehensive immigration reform in his first year, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott – Republican Senate and Governor candidates, respectively, both of whom we know to have strict views on immigration — captured a large part of the Florida Latino Vote this year. Why the difference? 

Unlike in the West, Democratic candidates in Florida did not exploit their opponent’s weakness enough on the immigration issue with Spanish language advertising.  In fact, Marco Rubio ran the most prominent Spanish language ad of the race, highlighting his immigrant roots and avoiding mention of some of his harder-line immigration stances. 

Read the rest of the analysis here.