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Democrats hold an edge with Hispanics in national elections, but Hispanics’ growing tendency to register as independents and split their vote between parties is buoying Republican prospects for 2008, the Associated Press reports.

Younger and college-educated Hispanics in particular offer fertile ground for the Republican Party, new data show. And while no one suggests Republicans have become the party of choice for the nation’s fastest-growing minority, Democrats have been gradually losing ground.

“The Democrats began in the 1980s to slowly lose Latino registration,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a San Antonio-based research group that studies Hispanic issues. “It’s drip, drip, drip.”

President Bush claimed 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, a record for a Republican presidential candidate.

Although Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, the percentage of Hispanics who call themselves Democrats has declined in the past decade, even as the overall number of Hispanic voters climbed.

Millionth supporter

One million people like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and she wants you to know it, reporter Christina Bellantoni writes in her “On the Democrats” blog at www.washingtontimes.com.

“What’s the power of a million? It’s the power to run a winning campaign; it’s the power to restart the 21st century; it’s the power to make history,” Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle wrote in an e-mail yesterday morning.

Mrs. Clinton’s millionth supporter, computer programmer Ron Wood of Douglasville, Ga., will join the former first lady on the campaign trail, Miss Doyle says.

“We’re not going to stop here. We’re going to keep working to change America for the better,” she says. “We’re in this together, and you and I know that Hillary is ready to lead America out of the mess created by the Bush administration. But she can only do it with you at her side.”

The message also links to a video of what staffers have been calling Mrs. Clinton’s “money line” in Tuesday’s AFL-CIO debate: “For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine, and I’ve come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I’m your girl!”

Spellings’ letter

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings sent a letter yesterday urging colleges and lenders of student loans to voluntarily reform some of their practices now, before new federal government regulations become finalized next year.

The federal regulations, which won’t take effect until July, aim to prevent conflicts of interest, kickback schemes and other questionable practices between lending companies and schools. These practices came to light in a nationwide student-loan scandal earlier this year that put the Education Department in the hot seat.

In her letter, Mrs. Spellings said she wants schools and lenders to willingly make those changes. “I urge you to act now to assure students and parents that we have their best interests at heart,” she wrote.

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