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Record Hispanic vote favored Clinton

February 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A Hillary Clinton campaign worker said a "sleeping giant" has woken up. Exit polls show Latino voters made up 29 percent of the electorate in California. That's up 13 points from 2004. And they overwhelming chose Clinton over Barack Obama by 40 points.She got nearly seven out of 10 Latino votes, while he got three out of 10.

"We think she already knows a lot from her husband. She learned a lot from him," said Clinton supporter Eulogia Villegas.

And the "Bill Factor" means a lot to California Latinos.

"It's not quite Kennedy-esque, but the Clinton name is kind of gold because during Bill Clinton's eight years in the White House, he visited California more than he did any other state, showered resources on the state, and many of those resources impacted inner-city communities, including Latino communities," said Jaime Regalado, Ph.D., Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs.

Clearly, Obama tried to peel away Clinton's hold on Latino voters by supporting driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and advertising in Spanish-language media. But that didn't persuade many to switch.

A contributing factor may be the widely held notion Latinos are reluctant to support a black candidate because of racial tensions they may feel from the African-American community.

"I tend to think that there's a feeling on the part of some black people of being displaced by the recent arrival of large numbers of immigrants from Mexico," said Prof. Clarence Walker, Ph.D., UC Davis History Department.

Professor Walker also thinks maybe Obama strategists counted too much on people of color sticking together.

"It may be a failing of the Obama campaign, or an assumption on their part, that they could just count on these people to vote automatically for him because of his color or his minority status," said Prof. Walker.

That's not to say Obama didn't make strides in the Latino community. He did well among young Hispanics.

The next test is Texas, where up to one-half of voters in the Democratic Primary is Latino.


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