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Why Latinas are backing Obama

Alejandro Escalona

Alejandro Escalona

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Updated: November 19, 2012 3:09PM

I call my wife “motorcito” or “little engine.” Margaret has earned this term of endearment because she makes sure everybody and everything keeps humming in our household.

Of course, my wife can enjoy a leisurely Sunday morning of reading and sipping tea, but once she decides it is time to get things done around the house, she gets everyone involved.

Margaret is of Irish decent, but she could easily pass for a Latina mom because she speaks Spanish fluently and has an uncanny ability to run things in our household. Mexican and Irish women have a lot in common other than being Catholic.

I bring this up because women have great influence on critical decisions on just about everything — from where a family lives to the type of bread they buy. Marketers know this and so do politicians.

Women’s voting power continues to rise. In 2008, 10 million more women — including Latinas — voted than men. According to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, between the 1996 and the 2008 presidential elections, the number of Latina voters grew 90.5 percent. The number of Latina voters in each election surpassed the number of male Latino voters.

Women voters will play a critical role in this coming election. For Mitt Romney and the Republicans, Latina voters could turn into their worst nightmare. Romney knows he faces a big gap among women voters, but the rejection of his candidacy among Latinas runs even deeper.

The latest Latino Decisions poll revealed that Latina voters favor President Barack Obama over Romney 74 percent to 21 percent. According to this poll, Latina voters believe that Democrats are better on women’s issues. And Latinas are talking not only about reproductive rights, but a whole set of issues that matter to them.

Maria Pesquiera, president and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, a Chicago community organization that seeks to empower women, told me that Latinas will be an especially powerful voting block in this election. She pointed to a 17.4 percent increase in the number of Latina registered voters.

Pesquiera said Latina voters are concerned mainly about the well-being of their families, but they see an interconnection between a whole host of issues — the economy, immigration, education and health — not only for their families but for their communities.

Mujeres Latinas en Accion is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a conference Thursday at the InterContinental Hotel, 505 N. Michigan, where legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta will speak on the rising political power of Latinas.

Romney and the Republicans have not helped their cause among Latina voters by using hostile rhetoric such as the term “anchor babies” and telling undocumented immigrants to “self-deport.” Latina voters know the Republicans are talking about their families.

According to Latino Decisions, Democrats have taken positions that are more favorable to Latina and Latino voters. Their support of the Dream Act and the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court are seen as positive approaches to Latinos.

Latina voters tend to be like my wife. They work hard, run the household and will have a powerful voice on Election Day.

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