Hispanics Battleground Vote Rising Fast

As the debate over Obama’s DREAM Lite initiative rolls on, both Sean Trende and Nate Silver have made the argument that its political significance is mitigated by the relatively low Hispanic voting populations of the biggest battleground states (plus the domination of Florida’s Hispanic population by Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans who are not that interested in immigration as an issue).

It’s true none of the other battleground states have the kind of Hispanic presence you see in Florida, Nevada or Colorado, but that picture is changing rapidly, as The Hill‘s Alexander Bolton notes:

Hispanic populations have grown by an average of 77 percent in nine presidential battlegrounds since 2000 according to census data.

States traditionally seen as dominated by white working class voters have seen Hispanic populations explode in recent years.

Pennsylvania’s Hispanic population grew 83 percent between 2000 and 2010; Iowa’s increased by 83.7 percent; Virginia’ increased 92 percent; North Carolina’s increased by 111 percent; Ohio’s increased by 63 percent; New Hampshire’s increased by 79 percent; and Iowa’s grew by 84 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

And these increases do add up over time:

In Pennsylvania, Hispanics make up nearly 6 percent of the total population while in Virginia they are nearly 8 percent; in North Carolina it’s 8.4 percent; in Iowa, it’s 5 percent; in Ohio, it’s 3.1 percent; in New Hampshire, nearly 3 percent

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“It will have a significant impact in a very close election,” said Manuel Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

I’d say we are right on the edge of having to consider VA and NC states with significant Hispanic political influence. You know, the kind of place where having the two parties at different poles of a highly emotional debate on immigration might have an impact in a close race.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.