Whether Latino voter turnout is high or low, their influence will register in the 2010 midterms because this time, attention is squarely focused on whether they vote, rather than for whom they vote. It is all but a foregone conclusion that the vast majority of Latino voters will support Democrats. After years of escalating and egregious political scapegoating, few Latinos consider the GOP a viable option.
Sharp evidence of this very point emerged in Nevada where Republican operatives launched a campaign encouraging Latinos not to vote. Republican strategists decided they would rather invest $80,000 to suppress Latino votes instead of winning them. Tens of thousands of dollars spent to make sure Spanish speaking Latinos (Univision audience) especially see the “keep out” sign and know their votes are not wanted. Interestingly, the “Latinos Don’t Vote” effort surfaced despite well-reported predictions for depressed Latino turnout rates relative to November 2008.
Republicans and Democrats have a stake in Latino participatory decisions; their influence can manifest in various ways and is now a permanent part of the electoral environment. As others here have noted the Latino electorate is best poised to defy low expectations in competitive races, some including co-ethnics are on the ballot. This election cycle presents a unique opportunity for the Latino electorate to hold parties accountable for responsiveness, inaction or antipathy to group-specific issues and priorities. During the 2008 election season, Democrats courted Latino voters with specific commitments on immigration reform legislation. Republicans also made an issue of immigration, but did so in a manner that repelled the Latino electorate.