One of the big questions about the 2016 campaign is this: Will voter groups in the vaunted Obama coalition turn out at levels this fall that rival their turnout in 2012?

Key to this question is the enthusiasm level among Latinos. They are increasingly important to Democrats in national elections, because they are growing as a share of the electorate, even as Republicans appear paralyzed from doing anything to strike a more welcoming posture towards them and have nominated someone who insults Mexican immigrants for sport and vows mass deportations and a great wall keeping the hordes out.

Yet some new polling released this week by Latino Decisions offers some mixed news for Democrats on this front.

On the one hand, the poll finds that Hillary Clinton is beating Donald Trump by 70-19 among registered Latino voters nationally. That’s better than Barack Obama was faring among Latinos at the same point in 2012, when Latino Decisions polling found him beating Mitt Romney by 65-26. In the end Obama beat Romney by 71-27 among Latinos in the election itself, so while Clinton is roughly at the same number among Latinos right now, Trump is doing worse than Romney fared.

The new numbers on Latinos also look good for Clinton in key battleground states. She’s beating Trump among them by 62-27 in Florida; by 70-14 in Nevada; and by 72-17 in Colorado. All this suggests Trump’s big speech on immigration, in which he doubled down on the xenophobia and chest thumping about mass removals, may have further damaged him among these voters.

Hillary Clinton's Democratic presidential campaign releases the first Spanish-language television ad of the general election. (Hillary Clinton)

Yet Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of pro-immigrant America’s Voice, which sponsored the new polling, says there are some causes for concern also lurking in the data — involving the enthusiasm level among Latinos.

It’s true that the poll found that 76 percent of Latinos nationally say it’s more important to vote this year than in 2012. That’s good news for Clinton. But Tramonte notes that the poll also shows that more middling percentages say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in 2012: 51 percent say this nationally, while the number who say this is no higher than 50 percent in any of the battleground states polled.

“When you ask Latino voters if they think it’s more important to vote, you get high numbers saying Yes,” Tramonte tells me. “The concern is that people may recognize that it’s an important election, but if they’re not really excited about voting, life can get in the way.”

“That’s a concern for Hillary Clinton and Democrats, because she needs every vote,” Tramonte continues. “She’s actually doing better than Obama is, but the next two months are crucial. And it’s all about enthusiasm.”

Along these lines, Tramonte also argues that the new poll also shows that too few Latinos have been contacted by Democrats: 39 percent say they’ve been contacted to vote or register, while in all the battlegrounds polled the number is in the high 30s or 40s. “Not enough people have been reached out to,” Tramonte says.

This could conceivably matter on the margins, because according to the Real Clear Politics polling averages, the race is a dead heat in Florida and in Nevada, both states with large Latino populations.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a Spanish-language TV ad to air in Nevada. (Hillary Clinton)

All this comes amid concerns among some Democrats that the Clinton campaign had been taking Latino turnout for granted, banking too heavily on Trump as a rallying force, as Abby Phillip reported recently:

Some Democratic strategists fear that Clinton has already missed a unique opportunity and warn that counting on Hispanic voters to turn out just because they hate Trump is not a reliable strategy. Unlike President Obama four years ago, Clinton has run virtually no Spanish-language television ads in the general election, with the exception of a spot that aired during a one-day soccer event.
“I’m worried literally to death now that because Donald Trump is so visceral that they’ll think that Latinos will turn out because of that alone,” said Chuck Rocha, president of Solidarity Strategies, a Latino political-consulting firm that worked with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary season. “Hate alone won’t motivate somebody to vote….They need something to vote for.”

In fairness, there’s time to improve here. The Clinton campaign has stepped up its advertising targeted at Latino voters in Florida and Nevada, and the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA has followed suit with more of the same. And the Clinton campaign argues that it has been targeting Latinos through digital ads and via Hispanic radio all along.

But it’s also worth recalling that the big unknown goes beyond Latino voters: Clinton lost among young voters by huge margins to Bernie Sanders during the primaries, raising questions about whether she can excite those voters, too. So one of the big questions of 2016 — whether the Obama coalition will turn out in 2012 numbers — still looms.


UPDATE: Clinton spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa emails over this statement in response:

The campaign has ramped up efforts in the general election to engage, energize and mobilize millennial and Latino voters. Earlier this summer, the campaign hired a team at headquarters to lead efforts to engage voters under the age of 35.  This team includes Anne Hubert, Sarah Audelo, Jamira Burley and Kunoor Ojha, who previously worked on the Sanders campaign. Our millennial efforts are integrated in every aspect of our campaign,including policy, communications, and grassroots organizing, and we’ve hired campus organizers and millennial vote staff throughout the country to register, re-register and educate voters. The campaign has made this a top priority and will continue to do so leading up to November. We are committed to earning the generation’s vote, that means doing everything we can to meet them where they are.

 UPDATE II: I originally got a few of the polling numbers wrong. I’ve corrected them.