In 2008, Obama relied heavily on the votes of African Americans and Independent voters to carry him to victory. However in the midterm elections, uneasy about the economy and high unemployment rates among blacks, both groups preferred the couch to the voting booth.
This, however, was not the case for Latinos, who set a midterm election record for a turnout of over more than 6 million. In heated races such as the one in Nevada, Latinos helped democrat Harry Reid beat back a challenge by Tea Party Independent Sharon Angle who hoped to use anti-immigrant rhetoric to galvanize voters to the polls. Latinos also helped carry three Latino Republicans to major statewide offices in Nevada, Florida and New Mexico.
With his recent appointment of Katherine Archuleta as political director, the writing on the wall esta claro -- Obama needs the Latino vote to win in 2012.
The Archuleta pick is both strategic and brilliant. Her appointment sends the message that Obama and his team will take the Latino vote seriously. In order to win in 2012 he will need them to turnout in record numbers. In 2008, Obama garnered 67 percent of the Latino vote. In 2012, he will have to capture a larger portion of the vote to account for the potential loss of Independent voters and others who have lost hope in the "change" promised in the last election cycle.
Among Latinos, Obama still has a hurdle to jump with voters going into the 2012 election: specifically, his failure to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise of comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, the passage of anti-immigration legislation such as SB1070 in Arizona has only made the need for action at the federal level more urgent.
Enter Archuleta. She is a veteran politico with deep community roots and connections. One of her signature efforts, the Latina Initiative in Colorado, increased voter turnout among Latino women by nearly 5 percent. She's also the former chief of staff of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a woman known for her unwavering support and commitment to working and middle-class Latinos.
We have only begun to see the potential of the Latino vote in the last two election cycles. Because of citizenship issues and the young age of the population, they are still not voting in numbers proportionate to their percentage of the population. For the Obama campaign, the key will be to galvanize eligible Latino voters by letting them know that their vote carries more weight because of the many that are unable to cast a ballot.
In the 2012 election, maximizing voter turnout in the Latino community will be imperative to any presidential candidate. Archuleta's historic appointment sends a clear message about the role Obama's team believes Latinos will play in selecting the next president.
In 2008, the Democratic National Convention chose a winning 50-state strategy. In 2012, they will need a winning multi-racial strategy to carry them across the finish line.