Latino Evangelical Voters Join Forces With Catholics, Finding Common Ground On Health Care

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While newer generations are losing their religion, many Latinos have converged, en masse, on evangelical churches across the country in search of a political voice.

These voters could prove to be a boon for Mitt Romney, who desperately needs the Latino voting bloc, since Hispanic evangelicals have historically sided with conservatives on social and family issues. However, as a recent poll shows, Latino voters diverge from Romney on several crucial policy points -- most importantly, immigration.

Latino evangelicals, the second largest religious group among Hispanics, according to a 2012 Pew Hispanic Center report, tend to be socially conservative, favoring pro-family policies.

Despite their alignment with the GOP's draft platform on certain social issues, including disapproval of abortion and same-sex marriage, Romney's stance on deportation, along with his VP pick, has alienated many Hispanic evangelical voters, pushing them right into the arms of Catholic Latinos.

Latino evangelicals and Catholics have historically been at odds when it comes to politics, but recently, they've found a shared ground on the Obama administration's health-care mandate, Rev. Samuel Rodríguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told The Arizona Daily Star.

"We are seeing a great collaboration, where the barriers of the past have been overcome," Rodríguez said. "It is a beautiful day."

Through its church outreach, NHCLC has managed to register 98,000 Latinos to vote in the upcoming election. While the Latino evangelicals are partnering with Catholics, who tend to favor Democratic candidates, not all evangelicals are rushing to the left. Instead, Rodríguez notes, many are registering as independent.

Spread widely across the spectrum of issues, Latino evangelicals are "the ultimate swing vote," Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, told The Huffington Post.

Hispanic Catholic votes may still be up for grabs, as well. Though a recent Gallup poll confirmed Hispanic Catholics differ from their white counterparts, favoring Obama over Romney, a new voting guide suggests otherwise.

Created by the Catholic Hispanic Leadership Alliance, the guide applies Catholic teachings to political issues. The group evaluated each presumptive presidential candidate's position on the issues, assigning points and tallying the final count.

Interestingly, President Obama achieved a lower score at 17.4 percent while Romney had a rating of 52.2 percent.

Although the guide is just that -- a guide -- a record number of Latino voters are expected to turn out in November, given their largest showing to date at the 2010 midterm elections, and a religious approach to politics may be the deciding factor.

"We believe some difficult decisions need to be made, but not on the backs of the poor and the most vulnerable," Salguero told The Huffington Post. "For us it's not a political agenda. It's a moral issue. We're Christians."

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