A record 10 million Latino voters helped carry President-elect Barack Obama to victory on Tuesday, supporting the Democrat by a 2-1 margin over Republican Sen. John McCain, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of national exit poll data from Edison Media Research.
The overall percentage of Latino voters was in line with 2004, roughly 8 percent of all voters, the exit polls showed. But this time around, the vote was "more potent" because it swung Republican states to the Democrats, said Andy Hernandez, an Austin-based pollster who specializes in Latino politics.
"Latinos are flipping red states to blue," Hernandez said. "In this election, Latinos contributed to Virginia flipping. They were responsible for Nevada flipping. They contributed to Colorado flipping. And New Mexico went overwhelmingly Democratic, and Latinos were responsible for that."
Obama even had a strong performance in Florida, where Cuban-Americans have historically supported Republicans by large measures, taking 57 percent of the total Latino vote Tuesday, the exit polls showed.
And now the not-so-much here in H-Town:
In Texas, Obama received about 63 percent of the Latino vote, compared with McCain's 35 percent, Hernandez said. Latinos in the state cast an estimated 1.6 million votes, he said. They made up about 20 percent of Texas voters, according to the Pew analysis.
In Harris County, the Latino vote fell short of some expectations amid lower-than-predicted overall turnout (although African-Americans came to the polls in record numbers)."I'm a little disappointed looking at the (local) numbers that more Latinos didn't come out and vote," said Maria Isabel, a 53-year-old naturalized Cuban-American who helped organize for Obama in Houston. "But my family voted. My children voted. My mother is a Republican from the Reagan days, and she voted for Barack Obama."
I would rather focus on what Democrats did well, so perhaps the local party can get the feedback necessary to improve Hispanic turnout in Houston for 2010 -- when we're really going to need it.
I can't accept that Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, and not Hillary Clinton, was the difference (since it wasn't anywhere else in the United States). We had high-profile Hispanics running in Harris County; Rick Noriega and Linda Yanez and Adrian Garcia all near the top of the ballot, and Garcia won more votes than any Harris County Democrat. There is something we're not doing effectively enough locally to drive Latino Democrats to the polls, and I really want to know what it is.