Saturday, July 20, 2024

Candidates appeal for Latino vote, 'up for grabs'

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama plan back-to-back appearances Saturday before the annual meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The non-partisan group represents more than 5,500 officeholders and the fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation.

In a report issued Thursday, the group, known as NALEO, predicted a record-breaking turnout of at least 9.2 million Hispanic voters this fall. They could be key to winning swing states such as New Mexico, Florida and Colorado.

Both candidates have strong selling points for Hispanic voters, but neither has closed the deal, backers say. Traditionally Democratic, Hispanic voters helped give George W. Bush the presidency in 2000, when exit polls showed Bush won 35 percent of their votes. In 2004, he improved that number to 40 percent.

This year, the Hispanic vote is “very much up for grabs,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who supports McCain.Patricia Lopez, a Democratic member of the Phoenix school board, said she will probably vote for Obama. But, she said, “it’s really hard” because of the loyalty she feels toward Clinton. “She was my hero,” Lopez said.
Delia Garcia, a Democratic state representative from Kansas who had supported Clinton, said she has switched allegiances to Obama. She said most Hispanic Democrats will follow suit if Obama makes more of an effort to reach out to Latino voters and make Latinos “part of his top staff.”
Obama recently hired Patty Solis Doyle, a longtime Clinton aide who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Doyle, who left her post as Clinton’s campaign manager after a staff shake-up in February, is to serve as chief of staff to Obama’s vice presidential nominee.

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