A record 12.2 million Latinos are expected to vote in today's U.S. election. If expectations hold up, this election will further solidify the importance of the Latino vote and its status as not only the county's fastest-growing population but also its growing political influence. The neck-and-neck race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will likely be decided by swing states with large Latino populations such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Buoyed by his executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June, President Obama leads Governor Romney 73 percent to 24 percent among Latino voters, according to the latest Latino Decisions tracking poll, with 3 percent of this population still undecided. If President Obama meets this projection, he will become president with the highest level of support from the Latino electorate, breaking President Bill Clinton's record of 72 percent support in the 1996 election.
Governor Romney's stances on issues critical to the Latino population, including immigration policy, have been met with less enthusiasm among many Latino voters. As a result, he is projected to fall short of his campaign goal of 38 percent support from this population.
Beyond the presidential election, Latino voters are also being aggressively courted in hotly contested Senate races such as Nevada and Virginia—both listed as toss-ups by Real Clear Politics.
Top stories this week are likely to include: the United States heads to the polls; Puerto Rico decides on status; Michel Martelly requests emergency aid; and Rafael Correa gets re-nominated for president.
Elections in the United States: On Tuesday, voters across the United States will go to the polls to vote for the next president as well as all congressional representatives and select governors and senators. A poll of polls from Real Clear Politics has President Barack Obama maintaining a razor-thin edge—0.5 percentage points—over Governor Mitt Romney. The difference-maker could be the turnout of Latinos, a demographic that supports Obama by 52 percentage points over his Republican challenger according to a poll released last week by Latino Decisions. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes: “The question is the degree to which Latino political preferences will translate into votes, especially in battleground states. Beyond Election Day, Latino turnout tomorrow will shape the extent to which their concerns will factor into policymaking in the next four years.”
Puerto Rico's Referendum: Voters in Puerto Rico will decide on Tuesday about the future of the island’s status. Currently it is a semi-autonomous “unincorporated territory” of the United States that—since it is not a state—plays no role in the U.S. presidential general election. Puerto Ricans will decide whether they want the island to gain more autonomy as a “sovereign free association,” or whether Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state or independent altogether. Tuesday’s vote will be the fourth time in 45 years that Puerto Ricans have formally weighed in at the ballot box on the status of the island. A poll last month found that a slim majority—51 percent—want to keep the island’s current status intact, according to AS/COA Online. “This is probably the most complicated ballot used for a referendum on Puerto Rico’s status and will likely split the vote for those opposing the commonwealth’s status quo,” observes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini.
Haiti Rebuilds After Superstorm Sandy: Sandy, which took on many forms including tropical storm, hurricane and post-tropical storm, left much damage in its wake—including in Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and the United States. But a country that appears to have suffered the most long-term damage is Haiti. According to the Associated Press, 70 percent of crops in the south of the country were destroyed and livestock killed—significantly damaging the agricultural industry. President Michel Martelly is appealing to the international community for emergency aid as his country adds the superstorm damage to the loss inflicted by a devastating earthquake outside of Port-au-Prince in 2010. Will Martelly’s request be granted this week?
Correa to be Nominated at Party Convention: Ahead of Ecuador’s presidential election in February, the Alianza País incumbent party will hold its convention on Saturday and re-nominate President Rafael Correa to represent the party on the ballot. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño affirmed this past Wednesday that Correa, first elected in December 2006, will run for another full term. If he wins, the populist leader will remain in power into 2017. Early polls show Correa with a huge advantage over potential challengers, bringing in 56 percent of votes versus Guillermo Lasso, an ex-banker of the opposition who garners 23 percent.
During the last presidential debate, Mitt Romney put the spotlight on an aspect of his five-point economic plan that has received little scrutiny. Romney said forging trade deals with Latin American nations would be a cornerstone of his plan to revitalize the U.S. economy. “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China,” he said.
Like the other parts of the plan, Romney’s Latin American trade plan is short on details. There are two details that should make Americans think twice about whether more trade deals with Latin America can lead to prosperity. First, the U.S. already has trade deals with most of the major Latin American countries. Second, the outstanding countries, most notably Brazil, would likely not negotiate a trade deal on Romney’s terms.
If any U.S. president wants to significantly increase trade with Latin America, he will have to change the template for U.S. trade deals so that they can truly make the U.S. and its trading partners better off. Time is running out. China has quickly become the largest trading partner for many South American nations and Chinese trade deals are much more amenable to Latin Americans.
The U.S. has trade deals with Mexico—under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—as well as with most Central American and Caribbean nations, Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Moreover, the U.S. has investment treaties with Argentina, Haiti, Ecuador, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. It had a deal with Bolivia that Bolivia withdrew from earlier this year.
This is a rush, unedited transcript of the presidential debate on foreign policy at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on October 22, 2012:
Welcome and thanks, 50 years after the Cuban missile crisis and as a segue I want to ask about...Libya...talking point...Afghanistan in 2014, maybe, maybe not...talking point...Iraq!...horses and bayonets...Iran will never get nukes...talking point...the 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back...talking point...you want to cut defense...do not...do too...sequestration will NOT happen...liar, liar, pants on fire...talking point...Iran will NOT get nukes...the U.S. economy is bad...it’s better...it’s worse...I know how to fix it...you have never done foreign policy...Iran!...China is a big country far away, they do bad things to their money, it hurts us...it helps your off-shored investments...yours too...talking point...we are the world’s beacon of hope...did I mention Iran?...please vote for me...please vote for me.
This is only an approximation of how the “foreign policy” debate went. Still, the evening was a play for undecided voters in swing states—with the economy as the hook. An outside observer would be hard-pressed to believe that U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century had to do with anything beyond the Middle East; Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Syria were all discussed at some length over the course of 90 minutes. What about Europe? China was debated briefly at the end, and received what seemed like cursory attention especially since much of the viewing audience had long gone over to watch baseball and football games. Governor Mitt Romney purposefully brought Latin America into the mix on the trade and economic front, but the issues were not pursued and were quickly dropped.
Nuclear proliferation? Global climate change? The South China Sea? Japan? The use of force? Nothing.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on the Spanish-language Univision network Wednesday night in a bid to convince Latino voters to unseat President Barack Obama in November.
During his 35-minute appearance before a largely supportive audience at the University of Miami, Romney emphasized his accomplishments as Governor of Massachusetts and said he would do a better job than Obama of finding a "permanent solution" to undocumented immigration.
"We're not going to round up people around country and deport them, we're not going to round up 12 million people," Romney said when asked whether he would deport undocumented immigrants or repeal Obama's policy of deferred action. He later said he would "staple a green card" to the diploma of immigrants who serve in the U.S. military or graduate with advanced degrees.
Univision partnered with Facebook and the University of Miami for Wednesday and Thursday's two-day "Meet the Candidates" series, providing an alternative, bilingual forum for both presidential candidates to appear before a primarily Latino audience in the run up to the elections. According to an ImpreMedia/Latino Decision poll released Monday, Latino voters favor Obama over Romney by a margin of 68 to 26 percent.
Univision launched "Meet the Candidates" last month, after the Commission on Presidential Debates released an exclusively Anglo-American lineup of debate moderators and denied Univision's request to schedule an additional debate with a Latino moderator focusing on issues of importance to Latinos.
"It's so interesting, because the Commission on Presidential Debates seems to believe that it is OK to have an African-American president, but it is not OK to have a moderator from a minority group," said Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who moderated Wednesday's forum alongside Maria Elena Salinas.
More controversy erupted when Univision and the University of Miami announced that the distribution of tickets to "Meet the Candidates" would be controlled by campus Republicans and Democrats, rather than distributed randomly by student lottery. As a result, Wednesday's audience was audibly supportive of Romney and could be heard jeering a number of the interviewers' questions, particularly when Romney was pressed to provide more details about his stance on immigration.
An Obama-friendly audience is expected to attend Thursday's forum for the president, which will be live-streamed on Univision's website and Facebook page in both English and Spanish. Viewers were encouraged to submit questions to the candidates via Facebook.
Last night, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared on Univisión’s “Meet the Candidate” forum—President Obama was interviewed today—where the questions from Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas almost immediately turned to his stance on key immigration issues. Unfortunately, Governor Romney did not provide much additional clarity as to his stance on issues such as continuation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), deportation and a balanced approach to comprehensive immigration reform.
First, the question of Deferred Action. When first asked about whether he would keep the President’s temporary policy, Romney responded: “The immigration system, I think we all agree, is broken and it’s been a political football for years and years on the part of both Republicans and Democrats. It needs to be fixed.” This answer did not address whether he would continue with DACA. Further pressed to specifically provide an answer on the fate of DACA under a Romney administration, the answer was that a “permanent solution” would be his goal—again, refusing to address whether he would keep the policy.
Clearly, a permanent solution is necessary. But in the absence of Congress and the White House being able to agree to one—a reality given Washington’s bitter partisanship—voters were left still guessing whether the 1.7 million potential beneficiaries of Deferred Action would be left out in the cold under a Romney administration.
Given Mr. Romney’s vague response to his stance on the DREAM Act—saying it would “have to be worked out by the Republicans and Democrats together”—the answer is that the President’s Deferred Action policy would likely not be upheld in its current form. This is a good reason for Romney to avoid the question in front of Univisión’s Spanish-speaking audience.
Why? Deferred Action is largely modeled after the DREAM Act that failed to pass Congress in late 2010—a bill where Mr. Romney disagrees with its core provisions. DACA, similar to the most recent DREAM bill, applies to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, and who are over 15 years old and under age 31, and have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years. Potential beneficiaries must also have a high school diploma or a GED, or be currently in school. Military veterans are also eligible. The major difference is that DREAM provides a pathway to citizenship but Deferred Action beneficiaries are only granted a two-year reprieve from deportation along with work authorization.
A new Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll revealed that Florida voters overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform that would give people living in the state illegally a pathway to citizenship. Of the 800 registered voters interviewed from across the state, 66 percent said they support immigration reform that allows people living in the Umted States without legal status to stay and apply for citizenship. Another 28 percent oppose it, and 6 percent are undecided. According to Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, the nonpartisan, company that conducted the poll, "most voters here support some sort of way to solve the problem."
The telephone survey, conducted from July 9-11, also found that 53 percent of Florida voters favored President Barack Obama's recent move to protect some younger illegal immigrants—so-called “DREAMers”—from being deported, while 42 percent opposed it and 5 percent of voters were undecided. Coker noted that support for the president's action is wide, but may be dulled by the way President Obama handled it. Although the administrative action will allow young undocumented immigrants who were raised in the U.S. to remain for two years under a deferred deportation, work and go to school, it does not provide a path to citizenship for them.
Both Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are courting Hispanic voters, especially in the swing stages of Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Although President Obama leads Romney among this voting bloc in most polls, he must shore up his support among Latino voters to win in November. Romney would not need to win over all Hispanic voters, but he does need to peel away some to compete in the swing states.
The Mason-Dixon poll also found that 53 percent of Florida voters support the right of police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest for a violation or crime. Forty percent opposed it, and 7 percent were undecided.
The margin of error for the poll was 3.5 percentage points.
As was the case with many countries outside of the United States, Canada had its share of Obama fever back in 2008. His candidacy was arguably seen as transformative, if only by being the first African-American candidate in a serious position to win the presidency. To be fair, the 2008 Democratic primary season also had all the makings of another rendezvous with history: the possibility of the first woman, Hillary Clinton, to capture the U.S. presidency. When Obama ultimately triumphed, Canadians seemed as excited as our neighbors to the south and hope was as much in the air in Canada as in the U.S.
Unlike some of our American friends who may have since soured on President Obama, Canadians generally retain a positive view of the President. It is not an exaggeration to say that his re-election for a second term would be seen very favorably. In fact, the general consensus after the rather disappointing Republican primary season is that Obama will walk away with an easy victory. It seems that many in Canada confuse their wishes with reality on the ground as Americans are bracing for a hard fought election.
The reality is that the United States remains fundamentally a 50-50 nation, with independents holding the key to the final results. The sluggish recovery in the U.S. (20 percent of lost jobs have been recovered) is contrasted by a far more robust recovery in Canada (over 100 percent). While our optimism is somewhat guarded regarding the economy, it is clear we did not have a housing crisis and a financial meltdown of the magnitude of America. Our single payer healthcare system, while under some financial strain, remains very much a major tenet of our social and economic security. Our growth outlook is generally considered good compared to our fellow OECD countries. So we tend to extrapolate our comparative good fortune with that of President Obama’s attractiveness and ask: Why would America change leaders now? The fact is that the economic picture will be a decisive factor in the November election.
Following victories in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is increasingly seeking to broaden his appeal with Spanish-language voters. Yesterday he launched “Nosotros,” a Spanish-language ad narrated by his son Craig that prominently features the endorsement of three Cuban-born Floridian lawmakers.
The 31-second ad, which includes shots of the Miami skyline and Romney’s November visit to a Conchita Foods grocery store, signals the Romney campaign’s efforts to specifically target voters in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where 72 percent of registered Republicans are Latino, and most are of Cuban descent. Before airing “Nosotros,” Romney had skipped the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market in his $850,000 purchase of English-language broadcast ads made last week, pointing to his intention to focus particularly on Cuban-American voters with this ad. In addition, “Nosotros” features three prominent Cuban-born Floridian lawmakers—Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Representative Mario Díaz-Balart and his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart—who tout Romney’s ability to restore America to greatness, create jobs and restore national security.
Romney and other Republican candidates face a challenge of appealing to Latino voters while portraying themselves as “true conservatives”—which may mean taking an enforcement-only approach to one issue on many Latinos’ minds: undocumented immigration. Recognizing the importance of the Latino vote in Florida and across the country (about 21 million of the 50.5 million Latinos in the U.S. are eligible to vote), Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced on Wednesday that the RNC would be undertaking a major effort to engage Latino voters, including digital outreach, voter identification and traditional get-out-the-vote campaigns.
Florida’s primaries will take place on January 31, with early voting beginning 10 days earlier. It will be the nation’s first big-state presidential primary, and Florida is likely to play a key role in the outcome of the presidential election in November. Quinnipiac polls released this week show Romney having a double-digit lead among likely Florida Republican voters; Obama is tied with either Romney or Rick Santorum in a hypothetical general election match-up.
Republican frontrunners took to their podiums last night for the second televised debate, where a discussion on immigration reform and border security featured prominently. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s debut in the GOP race was rare opportunity for guest-moderator and Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart to press candidates on their views on immigration, with a focus on the undocumented population.
Gov. Perry, who currently leads the race despite announcing his candidacy for president less than a month ago, stirred things up with his criticism of President Barack Obama’s immigration speech in May. "For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say the border is safer than it’s ever been,” said Gov. Perry, “either he has some of the poorest intel in the history of this country or he was an abject liar to the American people."
Gov. Perry’s calls for more border agents were echoed by many of the other candidates, including Herman Cain and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, currently second place in the polls, pushed for continued construction of the fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Romney also stressed the need to minimize the economic incentive, what he calls the “magnet,” that attracts undocumented immigrants to the United States.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, focused instead on legal immigrants’ contribution to the economy and American competitiveness. “Immigration has made this country the dynamic country it continues to be,” said Santorum, whose parent emigrated from Italy, “so we should not have a debate on how we don’t want people to come to this country.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.