Wanted: party faithful and the newly converted, capable of discussing the state of the economy, tax policy and what government can really do to create jobs, make college affordable, respond to the foreclosure crisis or reform immigration policy, in English or Spanish, on the fly. Familiarity with Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican and Colombian Spanish idiom often used in the stretch of Central Florida that runs along Interstate Highway 4 strongly preferred.
With the presidential election so close that the Obama campaign team referred to the race as “tied,” in a Monday email, swing state demographics -- the makeup of political battlegrounds like Florida, Nevada, and Colorado -- continue to make a Romney victory less likely, according the voter data and analysis from Latino Decisions, a polling firm that specializes in gauging Hispanic vote. So recruiting volunteers and staff who can mobilize the Hispanic vote makes a lot of sense for both Obama and Romney, the group’s analysts say.
Latino Decisions tracks the views of Latino voters using methods that have more accurately predicted Latino political behavior than others, Nate Silver, The New York Time’s statistical wonder kid, wrote this weekend. Silver pointed out that Latino Decisions got right in 2010 precisely what he got wrong -- the impact of the Latino vote.
“I don’t know about other people, but I like to play with that tool on the New York Times [web site] where you can sort the states into the different candidate bins,” said Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions. “And what I see is the same thing I see in our research. If Obama takes Florida, Romney would have to run the table and win every other swing state. The probability on that is almost zero, in part because of the number of Latinos living in critical swing states.”
The bottom line: every candidate needs 270 electoral-college votes to win.
If Obama carries Florida and all the other states that polls and prognosticators widely predict that he will, Obama will only need four more electoral college votes and one state to hold the White House, said Manzano, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions. If Romney carries Florida, he will sit 50 votes and several states away from claiming the Oval Office.
A series of national polls in states such as Nevada and Colorado give Obama razor-thin leads. However, the president is posting broad advantages over Romney with Latino voters, ranging from 50-points to nearly 70-points, according to a series of state polls.
Arizona, a state that Democrats had hoped to turn blue this year with a surge in Latino voter registration, has vacillated in and out of the swing state pile in 2012 and is set up for what looks to be a razor-thin election. One indicator of the likely outcome: 80 percent of Latinos -- who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and make up just under 20 percent of the state’s registered voters -- are leaning towards Obama, while just 14 percent lean toward or plan to vote from Romney, according to a Latino Decisions poll released late last week. If Latinos show up in large numbers in Arizona, the traditionally Republican state becomes another that will be hard for Romney to win, Manzano said. The Latino vote has never swung Arizona's partisan alignment before. But, the Latino population eligible to vote has surged by 72 percent in the last decade, according to state voter registration data.
Even in Florida, where a Latino Decisions poll gives Obama a narrower lead and other polls put the candidates in a closer contest for Hispanic voters, the race for the Latino vote is not close.
In Florida, the state with the nation’s only sizable, reliably Republican set of Latino voters, Romney has about 34 percent of the Latino vote compared to Obama’s 52 percent.
“What we are seeing is the growing diversity of the Latino vote in Florida,” Manzano said. "Puerto Ricans, Columbians, Mexicans and younger Cubans have put it in play."
For the political groups and parties working to mobilize the large number of Latino voters who live and work in Central Florida as well Miami, the final weeks before the election have turned into a battle to recruit skilled volunteers and short-term staffers who can in turn then mobilize the Latino vote.
The Republican Party is putting up a fight, staging something call "Súper Sábado," or Super Saturday. Each week leading up to the election, the party will dispatch volunteers and staffers to knock on the doors of independent and registered Republican Latino voters, a party official said last week.
That effort is matched by an aggressive but small group of dedicated bilingual phone bank volunteers, said Nancy C. Acevedo, a regular volunteer and founder of the Florida chapter of the National Republican Hispanic Alliance.
“We have a lot of people who when we talk to them, they change their minds,” Acevedo said. “The Hispanic vote really is the swing vote.”
Mi Familia Vota, a mostly union-funded political organization, is already dispatching workers and volunteers all over the Interstate 4-area, armed with iPads that help them identify which Latino voters joined the state’s voter rolls this year and which have voted in just one or two of the last four elections. And the organization is hiring in Florida and other states so that Mi Familia makes contact at least three times before Election Day Nov. 6.
“I think the I-4 corridor is where this race is really going to be lost or won,” said Ben Monterosso, the executive director of Mi Familia Vota, which as of last week had registered just over 80,000 new voters nationwide, according to the organization. “Central Florida is the battleground of battlegrounds."