Latino vote may be out of reach for McCain

A recent AlterNet article cited Colorado as a major state in play when it comes to the presidential candidates’ outreach to Latino voters. Yet Republican John McCain’s tough-on-the-border stance may hurt him with Latinos who tend to vote — at least in part — on immigration reform. And so Latinos may instead turn to Obama. The Democratic candidate supports immigration reform but doesn’t place border security front and center. He’s also got the support of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, arguably one of the nation’s most powerful Latinos. And a recent Gallup poll puts Obama’s popularity with Latinos at 59 percent compared with McCain’s 29 percent.

The most interesting part of the article, however, was the attention to Colorado’s Weld County politics, where the immigration debate has played out on a more localized scale:

Weld County in Colorado, just north of Denver, may be an example of why winning over Latinos, without openly embracing a pathway to legalization, may be difficult. The area has a growing Latino population and is also a well of anti-immigrant sentiment. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in 2006 against a Swift & Company meatpacking plant raised tensions further, spurring a heated public debate on the value of having a growing immigrant population in the county.

Weld is in Congressional District 4, a targeted race this cycle. Turnout will be high and the immigration debate will be a key issue. Who can McCain rely on to support him in an area like this? An emphasis on border security could drum up the Republican base that opposes immigration reform, while the Latino population, already turned off by anti-immigration rhetoric in the area, may think that the Democratic candidate is the safer bet.

Presidential race aside, the CD 4 election hasn’t focused on immigration. Only incumbent Republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave has addressed immigration on her Web site, saying she has worked to "stop the waves of illegal immigrants" coming into the country.

Betsey Markey, her Democrat opponent, makes no mention of the issue on her Web page.

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