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.
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.
From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Presidents to Converge in Cartagena for Sixth Summit
Democratically elected leaders from throughout the hemisphere will convene in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend to attend the Sixth Summit of the Americas. The summit's theme is “Connecting the Americas,” and will focus on hemispheric integration and cooperation. “What is less clear, however, is whether the agenda that has been agreed to in advance by regional governments will have a meaningful impact on the hemispheric trajectory in the twenty-first century,” writes COA’s Eric Farnsworth for Poder. The Financial Times’s beyondbrics blog says the real issues on the radar will be the expected debate on the pros and cons of drug legalization, Argentina’s claims on the Falkland Islands, and Cuba’s continued exclusion from the summits—an issue that prompted Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa to boycott this summit. Speaking to Colombia's El Tiempo¸ Colombian President and summit host Juan Manuel Santos said he would be willing to mediate between the United States and Cuba, and voices support for the debate on drug legalization.
A report by AS/COA’s Summit of the Americas Working Group offers recommendations for job-creation initiatives in the Western Hemisphere.
Read an AS/COA Online Explainer about the origins and operations of the Summit of the Americas.
Obama Could Green-Light Colombia FTA Implementation
Colombia Reports writes that, while in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas this weekend, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that Colombia has met the labor conditions necessary for implementation of the U.S.-Colombia trade pact. The U.S. Congress approved the Colombia free-trade agreement in October 2011, but implementation had been delayed pending fulfillment of an April 2011 plan requiring Colombia’s protection of worker rights.
Will Obama's LatAm Focus Extend beyond April?
With April being touted as U.S. President Barack Obama's "Latin American month," New York University Political Science Professor Patricio Nava asks if the United States will continue paying attention when the month is over. Navia is skeptical, warning: "By failing to take advantage of the opportunities Latin America offers, the U.S. will further erode its declining economic and political power in the world and Latin America will find partners for development elsewhere."
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.