Latino Voters in Nevada and Califas: “Outside the wave of Obama-mania?”

Given Michael Whouley’s latest revival job and Bill Richardson’s apparently imminent departure, Latino voters, in Nevada on January 19 and California on Feb. 5 , are being hotly pursued by the remaining Democratic candidates.

For starters, we’re unlikely to see Hillary tryto paint Obama as overly pro-immigrant, as she did earlier this month. Absentee voting began Monday in California. In LA, JDL links to a Daily News article that notes that half of all 18-24 year-old voters are Latino. Jaime Regalado of Cal State LA’s Pat Brown Institute: “The negative focus on immigration could also get more young Latinos to the polls. This is one way for these young people to express their anger and exercise their political rights.” JDL further places the election within the context of SoCal (racial and generational) politics:

Current Black-Brown tensions and the recent focus on immigration will make the Obama – Hillary fight a microcosm of Los Angeles class and racial politics. Latino political heavy weights like Antonio Villaraigosa and Fabian Nunez have lined up behind Hillary. Other Los Angeles-based politicians, Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, City Council President Eric Garcetti, and Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, have thrown their support behind Obama. Labor is split on the two candidates. …[I]t will be an entertaining month.

In addition to immigration, California’s economic crisis will be a central issue for Latino and non-Latino voters (the mortgage crisis, the state’s $14 billion budget deficit, the Hollywood writers’ strike, the price of gas), as will issues of police brutality and gangs. That’s a lot to fit into a 30-second spot in any language.

But first Nevada, where Obama picked up the immigrant-driven SEIU and Culinary Workers endorsements. Will Clinton ally, and Cuban-American, Sen. Bob Menendez’s weekend’s foray into the state have an impact on the mostly Chicano, Mexican, and Central American voters?

Writing from New York for New America Media, Robert Lovato points out that another effect of New Hampshire is that the Dems aren’t the only ones chasing the non-Cuban Latino vote:

McCain’s unique challenge to Democrats for the Latino vote comes down to simple math: his GOP rivals’ zeal to win white votes with anti-immigrant appeals is perceived by my father (“I’ll be below the earth before voting for any of them”) and other Latinos, as severely anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, if not racist. McCain’s calls to treat immigrants “humanely” during the Spanish-language GOP debate contrasted strikingly with the smiley “get tough” talk of his shrill opponents…

[W]hen Democrats are evasive -– as in Clinton’s driver’s license flip-flop or when Obama vacillated after being asked by Univision anchors about his vote for the border wall — I see the moral and political opening exploited by Bush in 2004, and McCain before 2008. My father and most Latinos reject the wall as a “muro de la muerte” (wall of death). That the immigration debate merits neither Clinton’s attention nor Obama’s abundant rhetorical powers explains Latinos’ frustration (documented in the recent Pew Hispanic poll) and leaves many of us outside the wave of Obama-mania.

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