Clinton’s Political Survival Thanks in Part to Latino Support

The New York senator’s strong support among Latinos has led her to primary victories in the largest, most delegate-rich states in the country (and some others, too). Sen. Hillary Clinton’s primary victories in California and Texas, the nation’s two largest states, were made possible by Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to vote in her favor.

An analysis of exit polling data by the Pew Hispanic Center shows Latino primary voters — who accounted for at least 30 percent of the votes cast in California, Texas and New Mexico — supported Hillary Clinton by a ratio of two-to-one over Sen. Barack Obama in all three states.

In Texas, Latinos accounted for one-third of the Democratic primary voters, up from a quarter in 2004. They favored Clinton over Obama 66 percent to 32 percent. Among non-Hispanic Texas primary voters, Obama topped Clinton 55 percent to 44 percent. In the end, Clinton carried the state with 51 percent of the vote compared to Obama’s 47 percent.

In California’s Feb. 5 primary, Latinos made up 30 percent of the Democratic electorate, up from 16 percent in the 2004 primary. Exit polling found Obama and Clinton locked in a dead heat among non-Latino Democratic primary voters (46 percent apiece). But the 67 percent of Latino voters who supported Clinton tipped the final results to her favor.

Clinton won the New Mexico primary by only one percentage point. While non-Hispanics favored Obama, Latinos, who made up 35 percent of New Mexico Democratic primary voters, supported Clinton two-to-one over Obama.

As the contest to decide the Democratic presidential nominee continues, Latinos will play a less decisive role, the Pew study finds, as they do not make up a major share of the eligible voters in the remaining states.  But if there is a re-vote in Florida and Michigan, as some Democratic leaders are now urging, all bets are off.

Latino voters are nearly 14 percent of the electorate in Florida. Latino Democrats favored Clinton over Obama two-to-one in that state’s January vote, which produced no delegates for either candidate because of an intra-party dispute over timing. 

In Colorado, Latino voters make up 12 percent of the electorate and tend to vote Democratic. But considering their strong support for George W. Bush in 2004 (30 percent), and the fact that Bush carried the state by only 5 percentage points that year, Hispanics will be a key voting bloc in this swing state.

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