Record turnout reveals power of Latino bloc in US politics
Defying predictions their participation would be lacklustre, Latinos turned out in record numbers on Tuesday and voted for US President Barack Obama by broad margins, tipping the balance in at least three swing states and securing their position as an organised force with the power to move national elections.
Overall, according to exit polls not yet finalised by Edison Research, Obama won 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 per cent. The gap of 44 percentage points was even greater than Obama's 36-point advantage over John McCain in 2008.
Latinos had such a strong turnout that it lifted them to 10 per cent of voters nationwide, an increase from 6 per cent in 2000.
"Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House passes through Latino neighbourhoods," said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, a top official at Hispanic organisation NCLR.
Latinos' greatest impact was in several battleground states portrayed by polls as close contests before the US elections. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Obama won the Hispanic vote by big percentages that well exceeded margins of victory, exit polls showed. In each of those states, Latinos significantly increased their share of total voters.
Romney's weak showing prompted Latino leaders to warn that Republicans could no longer afford to ignore Hispanics. But they also immediately laid out an ambitious agenda for Obama.
"The sleeping Latino giant is wide-awake and it's cranky," said Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, another group that spurred Latinos to vote. "We expect action and leadership on immigration reform in 2013."