Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who will woo who?

In the "wishful thinking" category, from the Associated Press:

Hispanics emerged as a pivotal vote in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Florida in previous elections, but this cycle the Latino focus has extended to Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, where Hispanics grew by up to 90 percent in the past decade. Those swing states will not only decide whether Obama stays in office, they are also home to the nation's most competitive Senate races.

The thrust of the article is that the Democratic Party will court the Hispanic vote. I will just comment on North Carolina. The problem with this argument is that it equates population growth with registered voters. In North Carolina, about 1.2% of registered voters are Hispanic. In my home county (Mecklenburg County), which went  for Obama in 2008, that percentage was up a bit, to 2.2%. Any wooing that occurs will therefore be aimed more at the future than the present. Don't get me wrong--Democrats will spend money on Spanish-language media, etc. but from a hard-headed outcome-based perspective I wouldn't expect that effort to extend too far.

For states that have seen a dramatic increase in their Hispanic population only in the past decade or so, we will not see a high percentage of registered voters for the following reasons:

1. Many people are in the country illegally
2. Their children, many of whom are citizens, are not old enough to vote
3. The Latino population overall is relatively young, and the young register in smaller numbers

This will change every year, and the Latino population in NC will become more politically influential. But in 2012 that population will not decide much. It is notable that the reporter did not actually ask anyone about North Carolina or Virginia, but just mentioned them without any evidence.

In North Carolina at least, look for the Democratic Party and Obama himself to focus on the African American population. That population turned out at a higher rate than whites in 2008, which is remarkable and will be tough to replicate while the economy is in the tank. But he needs it.


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