Conventional wisdom holds that the Latino vote won’t have much impact on this November’s midterm elections. Indeed, in the battle for control of the Senate – the big question mark of the midterms – almost none of the key states have significant populations of Hispanic voters.
Only in Colorado, where Sen. Mark Udall (D) is fighting for his political life, do Hispanics represent a major portion of the electorate – 15 percent of eligible voters and 10 percent of likely voters, according to a New York Times analysis.
But there’s another way to look at Hispanic outreach in 2014: as a dress rehearsal for 2016, when Hispanics will play a crucial role in the next presidential race. Messages that go out now will not be forgotten when the 2016 cycle starts – essentially, the day after the Nov. 4 midterms.
Last Friday the Republican-led House voted to rescind President Obama’s authority to delay deportation for certain undocumented immigrants, a slap at the so-called “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children and are now able to stay legally and work. The House measure was symbolic, as the Senate had already left town and Mr. Obama had no intention of signing it in any case. But Democrats will use that vote as evidence of what they see as Republican hostility toward Hispanic immigrants.
The recent crisis of child migrants flooding into the United States from Central America has also become a hot-button issue, testing both parties as they seek to energize their base voters for the midterms. But in 2014, the political import is mostly not with Hispanic voters; it’s about how white voters perceive the issue.
“The immigration issue gives Republicans a better chance of consolidating the older, conservative white vote,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “That’s who is most likely to turn out in the midterms.”