The spark was clear, she said: A growing perception of hostility toward illegal immigrants by Republican candidates is driving many Latinos to the polls.
“It’s the tone,” said Guerra, 49. “It’s like a hatred.”
Her daughter Fransheska, 20, a psychology student at the University of Denver, said many of her young friends were motivated to vote by a fear of conservative attacks.
“When you’re silent, this is what you’re going to get,” she said. “Everybody was really adamant about participating this year.”
Sanchez, the Republican strategist, who wrote the book “Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other,” said Democrats have succeeded in defining Republicans as uncaring toward Latinos. Romney, she added, failed to articulate “a compassionate and realistic approach” on immigration reform and the Dream Act. He also misstepped in speaking of “self-
deportation” as a way to address illegal immigration, she said.
The push in 2012 to get Latinos registered and voting was months in the making, said Ben Monterroso, national executive director of the nonpartisan La Familia Vota, which had 600 people in six states registering more than 80,000 voters. In Florida and Nevada, the group exceeded its goal of increasing registration by 10 percent among those eligible to vote, he said. In Colorado, it came close.
“I believe the Latino vote made the difference,” he said. Now, he said, he expects political leaders to listen. The election’s message, he said, was, “Here we are, and you need to deal with our issues and treat us with respect.”
The top issues for Latino voters, he said, are the economy and jobs, immigration reform, education and health care.
On Wednesday, in the heart of the Hispanic community of Las Vegas, where Obama campaign signs in Spanish were posted down the street from a Romney field office, Jose Flores, a 23-year-old electrician and Obama supporter, recalled cheering the television as voting results rolled in the evening before.
“I think the next four years will be good,” Flores said.
Dennis reported from Kissimmee. Steve Hendrix in Denver and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.