The release of the 2010 census got political analysts clucking about how one out of six people in the United States is Latino. Twenty-three percent of U.S. children under age 18 are Hispanic.
Given that nearly 6 million Latinos became eligible to vote in the past decade, the Latino voting potential will only increase for the foreseeable future. And party advocates, partisans and members of the political class began a new round of speculation about how the voting will sort out.
The political jockeying is going to get intense.
For example, President Barack Obama, who won the battleground states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida in 2008, is projected by Latino Decisions, a voter-tracking group, to be in jeopardy of receiving 58 fewer electoral votes in 2012 than he did in 2008. The final count will depend on outcomes in such non-Obama strongholds as North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and the 2nd House district in Nebraska, which are possible Republican pick-ups in 2012.
Nor are the high-growth Obama states of New Mexico and Nevada necessarily safe ground. In 2010, they elected Hispanic Republican governors. And Florida, which Obama carried in 2008, elected a Latino Republican U.S. senator. Depending on which scenario one accepts, the numbers come perilously close to the 270 needed for re-election. That might explain why Obama announced his re-election campaign on April 4, well ahead of any major Republican contender, with a staggering potential of up to $1 billion in campaign spending.
In fact, the Latino vote has become so elemental that analyst Matt Barreto estimates, given a competitive statewide election, Latinos have the capacity to influence electoral outcomes in 24 states.