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Voters go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images
Voters mark their ballots, near Spanish-language sample ballots in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won the Latino vote on Super Tuesday by a 2-to-1 margin in key states such as New York, California and New Jersey. That gave her a decisive win with the fastest-growing demographic in the country, possibly setting the stage for the general election when Latinos could make a huge difference in swing states.
Latinos have traditionally voted about two-to-one for Democrats. While George W. Bush made inroads with Latinos in the 2004 election (he won 40 percent of the Latino vote), those gains seem to have eroded as Republicans have increasingly spoken out against illegal immigration.
Clinton focused on winning over Latino voters in recent vigorous campaigning in California and Arizona. She benefited from high-profile endorsements from Latino leaders such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union.
While Illinois Sen. Barack Obama did not win the Latino vote in California, he managed to attract younger Latino voters. Clinton culled her support — as she did in other states — from older voters.
The wave of Latino support for Clinton began during the Nevada caucuses, when she won the Latino vote two-to-one.
The issues Latino voters have valued this primary season were similar to the concerns of voters nationwide, and included the economy, education and the war. But Latino voters also have expressed concern with immigration legislation, workplace raids and relations with Mexico and Central America.
After Super Tuesday, political scientists say Latino voters will press candidates for more details on immigration reform and related concerns, which certainly could help Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican front-runner. He co-authored an immigration overhaul bill that ultimately died in Congress.
But not everyone in the Republican Party may feel so inclined to court Hispanic voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has made immigration one of his central campaign tenets and has spoken out against illegal border crossings.
If candidates do chose to campaign for the Latino votes, they will have to do so seriously.
"Candidates are now forced to talk to the issues that matter to Latinos," says Jaime Regalado, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University. "In past years, they used to just go to East L.A. and eat a taco."