To update one of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s great phrases, “The hands that picked the cotton, and the hands that picked the lettuce, just picked the new president.”
According to the exit polls, if whites alone had voted, John McCain would be president-elect. That gap was erased by Barack Obama’s incredible support among African-American voters, who gave him 95 percent of their votes while increasing their turnout to 13 percent of the electorate. Despite idiotic and widespread pundit commentary earlier this year that insisted Latino votes wouldn’t vote for an African-American candidate, Latinos in fact gave Obama two-thirds of their votes.
In other words, Latino voters roughly provided Obama with his victory margin–both in the popular vote and in the key swing states that flipped from red to blue.
Almost five years ago in The Nation, our article “Blue States, Latino Voters” made the case that “registering and mobilizing massive numbers of Latino voters in the Southwest and Florida” was key to winning back the White House. Four years ago, just after George W. Bush’s re-election, we updated our case, pointing out that reversing narrow defeats in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado would have won John Kerry enough electoral votes to win the White House.
Our conclusion then: “The heavily Hispanic states of the Southwest, the ‘Cactus Corner,’ could be part of a winning strategy in 2008.” Well, sí, se puede.
Look at these numbers that were provided to us by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, which examined the 2008 Latino vote in thirteen key states. USHLI concluded that 67 percent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama, and only 31 percent for John McCain–more than a 2-to-1 difference nationwide.
Seventy-four percent of Latinos voted for Obama in California, 65 percent in Virginia and 72 percent in Illinois. Latinos provided the winning margin in Indiana, with 77 percent, and 63 percent voted Obama in Texas, a very positive trend for the future in that largest of red states.
In the key swing states of the Southwest, all heavily Latino, Obama racked up hefty numbers: 76 percent in Nevada, 73 percent in Colorado, 69 percent in New Mexico and 56 percent even in McCain’s home state of Arizona.
Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico all flipped from red to blue this year, delivering their electoral votes to Barack Obama by big margins.
Down-ballot, Nevada elected a new Democratic Congresswoman, as did Arizona voters–on John McCain’s home turf. Colorado elected a new Democratic Congresswoman, plus new senator Mark Udall, son of the former House environmental leader Mo Udall.