- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008




Comparing the 2004 and 2008 electoral maps, it looks like the Pacific Coast’s azure blue is bleeding east.

Four years ago, the Rockies formed a crimson wall - a solid Republican bulwark separating the Mountain West from the traditional ribbon of Democratic strength stretching from Washington State south through California. But now it appears someone punched a whole in the Continental Divide - spilling the political ink through the granite and changing states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada from red to blue and costing the Republicans 19 much-needed electoral votes.

Assuming all other states voted the same as in 2004, victory in those three alone would have provided President-elect Barack Obama with an Electoral College win. (Democrats received 252 electoral votes in 2004; adding those three states would have increased the total to 271.) Farther to the east in states such as Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, blue ink seeped in from the Atlantic as well, turning what could have been a close contest into an Electoral College rout.

Hispanics - and particularly new immigrant voters - represent a common denominator underlying the president-elect’s victory in all of these states. But his success was neither accidental nor magical. A well-coordinated ground game by outside groups, operating over the past several years, contributed to these gains.

Democrats deserve credit for increasing their margins among voters across the board compared to 2004. Rich, poor, urban, rural, conservatives, liberals and moderates all supported the Democratic ticket in higher percentages compared with four years ago. But no major group surged more for Mr. Obama than Hispanics. According to Pew Research, Mr. Obama boosted his percent of the vote within this community by a whopping 13 points compared to John Kerry four years ago - the largest gain within any demographic group.

One organization claiming credit for boosting Latino and immigrant turnout is the We Are America Alliance - a coalition of 14 national partners coordinating an extensive grassroots mobilization effort focused on citizenship, voter registration and get out the vote programs. Some groups involved in the partnership include the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the Colorado Latina Initiative, Mia Familia Education Fund and Democracia USA. The alliance held a telephonic press briefing last week to tout its success. Listening to their tactics and the resources they devoted to this campaign should worry Republicans. The GOP has nothing that even approaches efforts of this coalition - and Election Day results prove it.

This is a highly sophisticated, long-term effort. The alliance encourages its partners to get directly involved in the Latino community, weighing in on local issues to build trust with many who are normally disengaged in the political process. A common tactic is to register voters when they come out of naturalization ceremonies, one participant noted on the call. Another argued that Hispanic and immigrant voters trusted the alliance members because they had seen their information circulated in the community.

“We target people early,” Dusti Gurule, the executive director of the Latina Initiative in Colorado said on the press call. “We have programs for people as early as 14 years old. They can’t vote, but they have parents and relatives that can.” The alliance’s results were particularly impressive in key battleground states.

Consider four states that went for Mr. Bush in 2004 that Mr. Obama won this year.

In Colorado, the share of the overall electorate represented by Hispanics rose from 8 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2008.

In New Mexico, the percent surged from 32 percent to 41 percent. Nevada reveals a similar pattern, where the slice of the electorate represented by Hispanics rose from 10 percent in 2004 to 15 percent.

In Virginia, Hispanics accounted for 5 percent of the total electorate in the state; they represented a negligible percent in 2004.

Overall, the Alliance says it spent over $16 million on low propensity and immigrant voters, and in doing so changed the nature of the electoral map.

Crafting a more compelling message to attract Hispanics in the future is a topic deserving a detailed debate. But it’s also clear the GOP was the victim of a well-orchestrated organizational coup that further eroded the party’s success with Latino voters. Republicans pioneered efforts aimed at using technology they called micro targeting to identify, register and turn out voters over the past decade. Democrats and their allied groups have now caught up.

To their credit, they picked a demographic group strategically located in battleground states - a tactic that changed the visual image of the electoral map and elected Mr. Obama.

Gary Andres is vice chairman of Dutko Worldwide.

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