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Although Barack Obama won, the bitter campaign divided the US. The president emerges with a tenuous mandate and an urgent domestic to-do list. Abroad, a new world order is rising from the euro crisis, the Arab Spring and emerging Asia, and US leadership will be key. In this series, GlobalPost's far-flung correspondents bring you insights into how President Obama's re-election will impact their regions.
GlobalPost speaks to Tufts political ethnicity and identity scholar Deborah Schildkraut about keys to winning the Latino vote in 2012.
BOSTON — The Republican and Democratic National Conventions have been exercises in pomp and circumstance.
Night after night, major players in both parties have given speeches extolling the virtues of the two men who are vying to secure the US presidency. Yet polls continue to show that in America's pivotal "battleground" states, the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney remains in a dead heat.
Could Hispanic voters tip the balance? Deborah Schildkraut, Tufts University associate professor of political psychology and expert on ethnicity and identity, weighs in. (The interview has been condensed and edited by GlobalPost.)
GlobalPost: Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, was chosen to introduce Mitt Romney at the Republican convention. Democrats picked San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a Mexican American, as their keynote speaker. Although both men are lumped together as "Hispanic" rising stars in politics, they represent serious distinctions. How are the parties courting the Hispanic vote?
Deborah Schildkraut: Well to be honest, I don’t really see Republicans doing a ton to court the Hispanic vote, other than hoping. When you ask Latinos, 'What are the most important problems facing the country today,' they typically look like everyone in the United States. They talk about education and the economy. After 9/11, things like terrorism have been cited. But they care a lot about immigration too, and about whether they think the party is welcoming to them.
More from GlobalPost: Julian Castro seeks to deliver Hispanic voters
I think Republicans are just hoping that [Hispanics] are going to choose the Republican message on the economy over other things. Other than highlighting Marco Rubio, I don’t think that the Republicans are doing a whole lot to specifically reach out to them. They’re banking on the hope that Latinos are going to buy into the Republican version of how to achieve the American Dream. Democrats not only want [Hispanics] to buy into their version of the American Dream, but they also want to have Latinos specifically support them on issues related to immigration. [Democrats] have pointed to how the Justice Department has contested the immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, as well as Obama’s recent executive action and the traditional Democratic support for the DREAM Act. All those are concrete things that uniquely target this particular group — and Republicans just aren’t doing that.
Deportations of unauthorized immigrants have reached record levels under President Obama, rising to an annual average of 400,000 since 2009, according to a Pew study. That's higher than the rate during both of George W. Bush’s terms. Do you think President Obama’s track record on deportations has affected his approval numbers among Hispanics? Might it affect the number of Latinos who show up at the polls come November?
I do. I think the real issue facing Democrats is not so much the partisan breakdown among Latinos, but things like enthusiasm and turnout. And I think that [Obama's] actions regarding the children of undocumented immigrants will go a long way towards making up for that. But I do think that for a non-trivial segment of the Latino voting population there is a real disappointment. I don’t think that Republicans are necessarily going to win over or win back a lot of Hispanics, but the challenge for Democrats, and for Obama in particular, will be getting Latinos excited about him. [His record on] deportations has not helped him on that. So it’s really about regaining enthusiasm, excitement, and support.
How do Latinos reconcile Obama's record on deportation with his recent passing of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals initiative? Do you think that because the initiative was passed so recently it will trump Obama’s deportation record in the minds of Hispanics?
For many I absolutely think it will. But the question is, will it be for enough of them? There will probably be a lot of Latino voters who might think, “This is great, but what took you so long?” Pew also has data showing a lot of Latinos saying that they, or someone they know, or someone in their family will get deported. And that fear is real. That speaks to the whole feeling of wanting to feel welcome. They want to feel like the party is looking out