2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Texas Latino voters are this year's deciders


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Victor Landa
2/10/08 San Antonio Express-News 13

It used to be that California voters would complain about the order of events in the presidential primary process.

Their total delegate count, in both political parties, was shoveled to the top of the delegate heap that was already counted and allotted in a primary process that began months before in little New Hampshire. That may have been what bothered Californians more than anything else.

They never liked the fact that the major political decisions were all but decided by the time they got to speak their mind. They were late in the primary process, and because of things beyond their control (like the direction of the Earth's spin and the allotment of global time zones) their election polls closed hours after most of the country had its turn at the vote. They felt they were no more than an exclamation point at the end of a complex political sentence. And they had good reason to fell that way.

So in their wisdom, and in response to their need to feel that they counted in the electoral process, they moved their primary from June to February. But so did many other states. At one point in time Illinois, Texas, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Kansas and New Jersey were all contemplating a change in their scheduled primaries so that, in the end, there would be 22 states that held their primary elections on February 5.

In Texas, we toyed with the idea of moving the primary up one month, from March to February, but in the end the measure lacked the enthusiasm needed to push it through the process and it fell away. That lack of interest turned out to be a stroke of political serendipity.

In its eagerness to be relevant, California tossed its lot with the largest number of states to hold primary elections on the same day. And in so doing, they ended up making a lateral move, from exclamation point to semicolon. This year the Super Tuesday primary sweepstakes (dubbed Tsunami Tuesday by political observers and alliteration hacks) produced no clear winner in the Democratic Party. Sen. Hillary Clinton seems to have garnered the majority of the popular votes, but Sen. Barack Obama could well have gotten away with a higher delegate count that day.

This year California voters would have been better off, been more relevant, if they had waited. It seems now that Texas is sitting in a very good position to be the kingmaker state in this process. Expect to see Barack and Hillary traverse the state for at least a couple of weeks before Texans go to the polls, especially in the days before the election that are the traditional early voting days. Expect them to be deferential to the Latino community as well.

It's not that Latinos matter more than any other collective group of voters; it's just that Latinos have positioned themselves to be the swing vote of record in this election. The women's vote has tended to split along age and racial lines. Older women have been favoring Sen. Clinton, while younger women as well as black women favor Sen. Obama. The black vote as a whole is overwhelmingly tending toward Obama, while white males have supported Clinton, with a sizeable percentage going for Obama as well. All segments seem to be accounted for; all variables have been entered into the delegate count equation, except for Latinos (and super delegates, but that's a conversation for another day).

California was to be the test of the Latino vote. And in the end, in that state, roughly two thirds of Latinos voted for Clinton, while the rest favored Obama. In Illinois, the Latino vote for Obama was larger than in California, a testament to the Obama campaign mantra that as Latinos get to know him they will support him.

So Texas has become increasingly relevant in this election. And within the Texas electorate, as has been the case for many elections, the Latino voters are poised to be the deciders.

It's anyone's guess what Texas Latinos will do. Even the most fearless of pundits are keeping their opinion close to their chest. As it stands, this story is far from over.

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