Democrats or Republicans, Latinas Are Swaying the Vote

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

They use lipstick as a beauty accessory and a political weapon. At home, they're the boss. They keep in touch via Facebook. When they call to ask for your vote, in English or Spanish, you hear their children in the background. They say what matters this election are education, taxes, health care, immigration reform and "values."

These politically charged Latinas agree on almost everything -- except which presidential candidate will actually deliver what they want.

"Who said you couldn't get Latinas out here in their high heels being political?" says Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the California Democrat, warming up the crowd at a vice presidential debate-watching party in a bar in Arlington.

The women pass around red lipstick to symbolically redeem the accessory after Sarah Palin's quip about lipstick being the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull.

"Latinas for Biden wear lipstick, too!" the women shout. "We are Latinas for Obama!"

* * *

Another night, a smaller crowd of fired-up Latinas in heels, this time at a business club in downtown Washington.

"Latinas for McCain, we go where the voters are," says Tibi Ellis, a business owner from Las Vegas who co-founded the group. She's visiting tonight to inspire the local Latinas. They wear white buttons with a declaration in red: "I use lipstick and I vote."

"I'll see you back here in Washington for the inauguration!" promises Ellis.

* * *

Niche activism is self-validating and effective. "Jews for McCain" and "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Obama" can target people with whom they have more in common than mere party affiliation. There are "Women for McCain" for all females who support the GOP nominee. There are "Amigos de Obama" for todos los Latinos who support Obama.

But Latinas for this guy or that guy? That's slicing the demographic pie pretty thin. Political passion is sifted through not one but two filters: gender and ethnicity. Is it the age of micro-targeting and Facebook tribalism run amok?

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