Waking the Latino Vote: What Does It Take In AZ?

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Al Kamen of the Washington Post wonders whether Richard Carmona's Senate run can awaken the Latino vote in Arizona:

Romney’s diligent efforts may be helping him secure the GOP nomination. But he may have turned Arizona (with 11 electoral votes), which since 1952 has only voted once for a Democratic candidate (Clinton in 1996), into a battleground state this year.

Loop Fans may remember that the Obama team briefly considered a push in Arizona in 2008 but backed off. Native son McCain had the state locked up.

And McCain won Arizona by a solid 8.5 points, getting 41 percent of the Latino vote. But if Obama had campaigned and won the Latino vote — then about 18 percent of the state’s eligible voters — by an 80-20 margin, McCain’s win might have been more like a squeaker.

In addition, the Latino turnout there in 2008 was only 36 percent — compared to a national average among Latino registered voters of 44.9, according to data compiled by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

Turnout, Arizona pollster and political analyst Mike O’Neil told the Loop, “is the entirety of the political equation.” The question has always been “can anyone wake up this sleeping giant” of the Latino vote, he added. “I’ve heard it over and over and it’s never happened.”

Some Democrats are looking to former Pima County, Ariz. deputy sheriff Richard Carmona to be the alarm clock. Carmona is running in the Democratic primary to be the candidate for an open Senate seat.

If he gets the Democratic nomination, Carmona, a Green Beret, winner of two Purple Hearts in Vietnam and President George W. Bush’s surgeon general, may boost Latino turnout. And Obama campaign workers are now in Arizona big-time.

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