Why California Latino voters lean toward Clinton

01/31/08 Mitch E. Perry
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On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama among Latinos in Florida by a 2-to-1 margin. That follows a similar pattern that occurred among Latino voters in Nevada.

With several states with strong Latino populations part of Super Tuesday’s series of primaries and caucuses, some analysts say this trend is something that Obama needs to address quickly in his tight battle with Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Getting more of the Latino vote is critical for Obama in the biggest state in the country, California, where the candidates will debate for the final time this campaign season tonight. Issues such as illegal immigration are likely to come up.

In California, Clinton is running 3-to-1 ahead of Obama.

Jaime Regalado is executive director of the Edmund “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University in Los Angeles. He says the California Latino vote is breaking strongly for Clinton at this point, and it’s the Clinton "brand" that accounts for much of it.

Regalado said another reason Clinton is doing well is simply that Obama is an unknown quantity to many Latino voters.

But it’s the issue of race – and racial tensions between Blacks and Latinos - that is being discussed more in print and internet stories that some say is why Obama is not doing better with Latino voters.

A Latino pollster for the Clinton campaign, South Florida based Sergio Bendixen, recently told the New Yorker that “The Hispanic voter—and I want to say this very carefully—has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez scoffed at that, calling it "misinformation" designed to undermine one of Obama’s central themes –that’s he a uniter who can bring together all of the races.

Tonight’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood takes place at 8 p.m. on CNN.

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