Huge Latino Support for Obama Was No Sure Thing


As we all already know, President Obama beat GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 44 percentage points among Latinos, 71 percent to 27 percent, exceeding the 67 percent of the Latino vote he won in 2008 over John McCain, The National Journal reported.
The popularity that Obama holds among Hispanics since Election Day remains impressive; Gallup’s compilation of a total of about 15,000 interviews each month show that the president stands at 74 percent in November, 75 percent in December and 70 percent in January, among Latinos with job-approval ratings.
But as recently as a year ago, one might not have guessed this would have happened. In January of 2012, Obama’s approval rating among Latinos stood at only 55 percent which, is 12 points below his share of the 2008 Latino vote. During 2011, his rating among Latinos dropped to as low as 48 percent, with a 41 percent disapproval rating. With this being said, Obama’s big electoral win among the Latino voters, who made up 14 percent of his total vote according to national exit polls, was not a foregone conclusion.
For much of the president’s first term, Latino voters were not happy. The jobless rate was significantly higher among Hispanics than the population as a whole; the Latino unemployment rate was at 12 percent for 20 to 24 months of Obama’s first two years in office. It was in the double digits for the 45 of the entire 48 months Obama was in office. Latinos did not blame Obama for a recession that began before he was elected into office, but, as the National Journal reported, who could fault Hispanics for feeling disaffected or less-than-energized about his reelection?
The deportation rate of undocumented workers was running at a higher rate in the first three years of Obama’s presidency that it had during George W. Bush’s administration. With Latinos playing a key role in Obama’s 2008 win, this particular leg of his coalition looked pretty wobbly just a year and a half before Election Day.
Little wonder that when pollsters, including Gallup, Peter Hart and Bill McInturff for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, and others, asked Latino voters eight to nine months ago how enthusiastic they felt about voting and how likely they were to vote, the response was like the sound of one hand clapping. With that, it was looking like Obama was not only getting a lower percentage of Latino votes, but that the turnout among his key group might be lower as well.
When the Obama campaign decided to ratchet up its efforts to woo the Latino vote, buttressed by Hispanic-friendly policy pronouncements coming out of the White House, it was enormously effective. When the Romney campaign ran a Spanish-language ad in key states targeting Latino voters, it often was simply a translation of an ad aimed at non-Latino voters. Obama campaign on the other hand featured prominent leaders in a local Latino community speaking Spanish in ads aimed at that specific audience. Throughout the campaign, the Obama operation did a much better job than the Romney campaign of synchronizing messages with target groups.
This effective way of targeting Latino voters carried over in getting them out in big numbers on Election Day, and before then in early-voting states. Even in polling by various news organizations going all the way up to Election Day, certain groups looked less likely to turn out in vigorous numbers than they eventually did – notably, Latino and younger voters. This suggested that the organized and orchestrates campaign operation that had been done during four years helped do this.
As The National Journal shifted through the polling data and various postmortems, and as participants become more willing to discuss what was going on behind the scenes, it becomes very clear that this election had its own course that was not obvious to outsiders, and that is why things went a different way than one might have guessed it would have gone a year ago.