Will the Hispanic vote prove decisive?

Will the Hispanic vote prove decisive?
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Despite making up only nine percent of the electorate nationally, the Hispanic vote is concentrated in many key battleground states, meaning their choice could be crucial.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a key swing state, Hispanics constitute 12 percent of the electorate. In 2004, George Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally. A record for the Republicans. This time, however, nothing is certain. The Latino vote is hugely coveted by both candidates mobilising volunteers. In one political ad, Barack Obama addressed his audience directly in Spanish.

Like other recent elections, the economy is a major issue of concern for Hispanic voters, as one owner of a Las Vegas restaurant explained.

He said: “The economy kills the people because the gas is too expensive, their life right now is about five, ten, twenty, a hundred times more about the past.’‘

Many Hispanics have been hit hard by the recent financial turmoil. Nearly eight percent find themselves unemployed and 29 percent have been caught up in the toxic subprime mortgage crisis. In this middle class district in Laredo, Texas, the economy is the top priority.

“All the prices are going up and a lot of people lose their homes here, at least 10% or more. I am not OK but I try to pay it to survive,’‘ said one resident.

Another issue on Hispanic voters’ minds is immigration. Republicans are paying the price for opposing reform put forward by President Bush. Reforms which would have seen an amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, including six million Mexicans. Both Presidential candidates have said they back reform but also favour reinforcing the border with Mexico.

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