Hispanics loom as key bloc for Obama

at 07:57 AM ET, 06/15/2011

President Obama’s trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday came as Hispanic voters emerge as a crucial voting bloc in his 2012 reelection bid.

Hispanics were in love with Obama when he was elected — even more than other demographics — but they moved towards Republicans a little in 2010. They’ve also shown a willingness to vote for the right kind of Republican, as George W. Bush was able to take 45 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.

They will be very important to Obama for two reasons.

One: They don’t view him nearly as favorably as they used to.

And two: They are entirely willing to stay home.

A month before the 2010 election, 63 percent of Hispanic registered voters approved of the president, according to a Pew Hispanic Center survey.

Still, they weren’t motivated, and their turnout dropped more than a lot of demographics, largely because the Hispanic voting bloc is so young. They wound up voting just 60 percent for Democratic candidates — down from 67 percent for Obama in 2008 — and their turnout dropped well below other major demographic groups.

More recent Gallup polling shows Obama’s Hispanic approval dropping as low as 47 percent, but staying mostly in the mid-50s. That’s still better than other demographics, but Obama is hardly in the same position with Hispanics as he was when he won in 2008.

Obama got a larger-than-expected boost from Hispanic voters in 2008 in four states in particular: Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, including becoming the first Democrat since at least 1988 to get a majority of Hispanic votes in Florida.

It’s no coincidence that those states happen to be among the fastest-growing Hispanic consituencies in the country. The fact that Obama earned bigger-than-expected margins in them can be tied directly to his performance among Hispanics.

Given that those swing states have only added Hispanic population over the last four years, Obama’s team has to be looking at them as key to his reelection.

The Hispanic vote increased by 30 percent between the 2004 presidential race and the 2008 race — largely thanks to enthusiasm for Obama. If Obama can conjure up the same kind of excitement this time — or anything close to it, really — that’s going to help him in some key swing states and be a big help going forward.

The good news for Obama is that Republicans have made very little effort to woo Hispanic votes, which means the demographic is there for the taking.

Bachmann impresses Boehner, DeMint: Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) performance in Monday’s debate continued to earn her plaudits from Republican heavyweights on Tuesday, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Tea Party Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) both praised her.

“I think she did a really good job last night,” Boehner said. “I think she’s a bright member of our caucus, and it’s one of the reasons I appointed her to the Intelligence Committee.”

Added DeMint: “I’m not considering (running), but Michele Bachmann does impress.”

Bachmann is a back-bencher who so far has gotten some notice in her party as a nominal tea party leader. If she can get members of the GOP establishment and tea party leaders to see her as a top-tier candidate, it will go a long way towards building up her campaign.

Christie still sure: In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan last night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie repeated that he is “100 certain” about not running for president in 2012, but he did not rule out a run in 2016.

Morgan asked Christie’s 17-year-old son Andrew if he’d thought about the “chicks” he’d get if his father was in the White House. “Oh, I’ve definitely thought about it,” he said. “But probably not right now.”

As neighboring New York comes close to legalizing gay marriage, Christie suggested that New Jersey would not. “It’s hard for me to look at someone who is homosexual as a sinner,” Christie, a Catholic, said. But, he added, marriage is still between a man and a woman: “We can have civil unions.”

The governor also emphasized that he made “no apologies” about taking a helicopter to his son’s baseball games, which recently caused a significant controversy.

“If the public perceives for a moment that I’m using that as a perk of office, I want to take that away from them right away,” he said. ‘But I would not make a different decision if I had to do it again, because it was important for me as a father to be there for my son.” He would, however, pay for it himself from the outset.

Christie told Morgan the thing he feels most guilty about is “my weight ... I’m really struggling.”

Fixbits:

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin has endorsed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in what is looking like a fight for the Republican nomination.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) is still under water, with a 38 percent approval rating and a 44 percent disapproval in a new Quinnipiac poll.

The Texas House has moved forward with the GOP’s redistricting plan.

Potential presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani will meet this morning. Perry supported Giuliani in his 2008 run.

California Republicans are raising money for Perry.

Newt Gingrich said he feels “liberated” after his senior staff left his campaign.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) goes after his GOP opponents on Medicare.

Must-reads:

Medicare Cuts Would Hit Republican Lawmakers” — Timothy R. Homan and Drew Armstrong, Bloomberg

House retirement watch begins” — Shira Toeplitz, CQ-Roll Call

Rick Perry: ‘I’m proud to be a conservative’” — Michael Howard Saul, Wall Street Journal

 
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