Obama Maintaining Better than a 2-to-1 Lead Among Hispanics

We have been watching this trend for quite some time, but it's clear that the initial common wisdom that John McCain would run unusually strongly among Hispanic voters for a Republican and Barack Obama would run unusually weakly among Hispanic voters for a Democrat is pure rubbish. Take a look, for instance, at the latest numbers among Hispanic voters nationwide from Research 2000 and Daily Kos:

John McCain (R): 29 percent
Barack Obama (D): 67 percent

With numbers lie these, it's little surprise that a state like New Mexico, which George W. Bush carried in 2004 and only lost by 366 votes in 2000, is pretty clearly trending Democratic this year, and a state like Colorado, which the Democrats have carried only once in the last 40 years -- and only then with the help of the strong showing of a third party candidate -- is as tight as can be.

It's worth noting that the composite of last week's Gallup polling (which was the best week for McCain in the last several months, perhaps the entire campaign) showed the Republican within 20 points of Obama among Hispanic voters (down from a 29-point lead for Obama the week prior, and 40 points the week before that). I'm fairly certain those numbers are not a fair reflection of the race for the Hispanic vote, but on the off chance they aren't we'll continue to keep an eye out for polling from the community. Regardless, one thing is clear: Obama will almost undoubtedly pull in a significantly larger share of the Hispanic vote on November 4 than McCain, which has real implications for how this race turns out.

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Hispanics Still Overwhelmingly Reluctant to Back McCain

Hispanic voters like Barack Obama and don't like John McCain. Take a look at the latest numbers across the Mountain West from Mason-Dixon (discussed as well in my last post), specifically the numbers on Hispanic voters:

Hispanic Voters in the Mountain West

John McCain (R): 25 percent
Barack Obama (D): 64 percent

These numbers track quite closely to the national numbers on Hispanic voters released over the course of the last several months. Research 2000 nationwide polling from July showed Obama leading McCain among the Hispanic community by a 65 percent to 24 percent margin -- almost exactly the same spread as was found in this multi-state polling from M-D. Pew polling also from July showed Obama leading by a similar 66 percent to 22 percent margin, NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling from June found a 62 percent to 28 percent spread, and the composite of Gallup polling from the month of May pegged Obama with a 62 percent to 29 percent lead.

At some point, presumably, the media will begin to focus on -- or at least give more than passing reference to -- the fact that McCain is uniquely weak among Hispanic voters, polling significantly behind George W. Bush in 2004 and even the anti-immigration House Republicans in 2006. Right?

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Ominous Signs for McCain, Republicans in Florida

Taking a look through the latest Quinnipiac poll from Florida, one particular piece of data jumped out at me: the preferences of likely Hispanic voters in the state. While Barack Obama leads John McCain inside the margin of error over all -- 46 percent to 44 percent -- among Hispanics Obama's lead is much greater, 56 percent to 36 percent.

Doing a little conjecture and number crunching, the margin of error for the subsample of Hispanic voters is somewhere in the neighborhood of plus or minus 7 percentage points, meaning that not only is Obama's lead within this community statistically significant, but the difference between his showing among this community and the state electorate as a whole is also statistically significant.

Why is this important? A glance at the 2004 exit polling gives us an idea. According to those numbers, George W. Bush won the Hispanic vote in Florida by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin over John Kerry, one of the keys to Bush's victory, both in Florida and nationwide. Had Kerry been able to pull in the same share of the Hispanic vote in Florida in 2004 as Obama is pegged at pulling in today, he would have netted roughly 5 percentage points overall -- meaning that Florida would have ended as close to a tie once again, putting the White House much closer to the reach of the Democrats.

The point of this, of course, is not to look backward but to look forward. If Obama can foster the continuation of the trend of Hispanic voters moving from the GOP to the Democratic Party that was seen in 2006 around the country and in Florida -- note that the Democrats' gubernatorial nominee in the state received 49 percent of the Hispanic vote in the state that fall -- his path to the White House will be significantly easier. And if this trend continues unabated into the future, the Republican Party is going to have some serious demographic problems to deal with as their base grows increasingly small relative to the overall electorate while the Democratic base grows rapidly.

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McCain in trouble with Hispanic evangelicals

In todays Politico article
The McCain-Latino disconnect one section stood out that I'd like to explore.

McCain's problem looks to be most pronounced among Protestant Latinos, who had seemed to be the GOP's doorway into the Hispanic population. From 2000 to 2004, Protestant Latinos increased their share of the total Hispanic electorate from 25 percent to 32 percent, in large part because of Bush's evangelical outreach and strategic microtargeting of the community. Even as turnout increased, support for Bush among the group rose from 44 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2004.

The Pew poll, however, shows that only a third of Protestant or Evangelical Hispanics intend to vote for McCain, while 59 percent support Obama -- who also enjoys a 50-percentage-point lead among Catholic Latinos, long a solid bloc of the Democratic coalition.

While McCain and Bush have similar views on most social issues, including abortion, McCain's candidacy may mark a return to an era of blue-blooded Republicans less vocal about their religious beliefs. Barack Obama, by contrast, speaks comfortably and frequently about his faith.

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More Evidence of Obama's Great Strength Among Hispanics

There has been a bit of attention paid to the latest Research 2000 nationwide poll showing Barack Obama leading John McCain by a 51 percent to 39 percent margin, which isn't too far off from Gallup's newest numbers showing Obama up by an all-time high of 49 percent to 40 percent across the country.

But a set of numbers from the R2K poll stood out to me even more than the topline results: The spread among Hispanic voters. According to the latest survey, which was in the field Friday through Sunday and consisted of interviews with 1,100 likely voters nationwide, Obama's lead among this community is 65 percent to 24 percent.

If these numbers seem quite high, though nevertheless believable, that's about right; polling this summer has consistently shown Obama holding a major lead among Hispanic voters, one that will make it extremely difficult for McCain to pull out a victory this fall. It is true that the margin of error on this subsample is likely high -- perhaps as much as plus or minus 9 or 10 percentage points. However, these numbers are in line with other recent surveys. A Pew Poll out last week showed Obama's lead among Hispanics to be 66 percent to 22 percent, or almost exactly the same as the spread found in the R2K poll. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from June showed Obama's lead to be a similarly large 62 percent to 28 percent margin, and Gallup polling over the course of the month of May showed Obama in the lead 62 percent to 29 percent. In short, these numbers appear to be in the right ballpark.

What does this all mean? With McCain in the low- to mid-20s among Hispanic voters -- more than a dozen points weaker than George W. Bush ran in 2004, and even half a dozen points behind where the House GOP ran in 2006 -- all of the sudden McCain is in the position where he needs to pull in over 60 percent of the White vote in Southwestern states in which Republicans do win the White vote, but not generally so overwhelmingly. Even McCain's home state of Arizona becomes a challenge with numbers like these. It evokes a question I pointed to nearly a year ago: How will the GOP replace Hispanic votes? At least for now, I see no convincing evidence that those on high in the McCain campaign -- which, I might add, was supposed to have been uniquely strong within the Hispanic community but clearly is not -- or the Republican National Committee have begun to figure out an answer to that question.

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