Analysts: Latino voters could decide election

The United States Hispanic Institute reports there are over 12 million registered Latino voters nationwide, with 9.2. million projected to turn out.

What is the impact of the Latino vote in the upcoming presidential election?

Both presidential campaigns have invested significant time and resources courting the Latino community. Jose Cruz heads a political consulting firm specializing in the Latino vote.

"If you look across the country, Illinois is a non-issue, it is going for Obama, but if you look at the swing states, the Latino vote could decide this election," said Jose Cruz, who heads a political consulting firm, called Cruz and Associates, that specializes in the Latino vote.

"Younger Hispanic voters are for Obama, some older Hispanic voters may be going for McCain, it depends on who comes out on election day," said Cook County Hispanic Republican Party Chair Angel Garcia.

Lorraine Mora Chavez of DePaul University says the Latino vote in Chicago is going for Obama because the Illinois senator makes appeals that resonate with the Latino community.

"…[W]hich is emphasis on jobs, emphasis on education and emphasis on tax distribution that would favor Latino communities," Chavez said.

Latino experts believe the economy has taken center stage. However, a key issue driving historic levels of political engagement and electoral influence of Latinos is the issue of immigration reform.

"We have yet to see any specific proposals on immigration policy from Obama and McCain," said Cruz. "Obama says he will fast-track comprehensive immigration reform, which will include an earned pathway for citizenship for the undocumented. We're looking at a year out. If looking at McCain, he says he will secure the border first. We are looking at three years out."

"Obama has a history of being like the Chicago Cubs, he cannot close it out. We saw it with Clinton. McCain has a history of closing strong. We are keeping our fingers crossed," Garcia said.

With just a few days away, it has become clear that the Latino vote will become one of the key story lines to emerge from the 2008 election. With its unprecedented size and level of political participation in the upcoming presidential election, the Latino vote has grown into one of the most important blocks in American politics today.

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