Voter Groups Up for Grabs in Upcoming Primaries

The upcoming presidential primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont have political pundits studying candidates' appeal to different voter demographics. Luis Clemens, of Candidato USA, an online Latino publication, discusses the upcoming primaries and the heaving courting of diverse voter groups.

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: I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Our Faith Matters conversation is coming up. But we're going to spend just a couple of more minutes on politics with Luis Clemens, editor of Candidato USA. It's an online publication dedicated to covering election news and political issues relevant to Latino voters, especially - and all of us really right now, Luis, because the Latino vote is so crucial right now. So how do you feel the Latino vote will play - will factor in the November election, since it seems increasingly likely that John McCain is going to be the Republican choice?

CLEMENS: Well, I think John McCain is a very dangerous candidate for whoever the Democratic nominee is from the perspective of Latino voters. Why? He's been reelected, gotten the support of Latino voters in his home state. He definitely has broad support among Latino voters because of his role in terms of immigration reform. That said, it's a very high hurdle. It's almost impossible to imagine him equaling the level of George Bush's support in 2004, which was 40 percent.

: Why?

CLEMENS: Well, I think there are a lot of concerns among Latino voters regarding the war in Iraq. And we've seen this in number of polls, where people cite as one of the most important issues. And clearly, John McCain's stance is to continue a military presence in Iraq. The other issue I think, is in terms of the economy, which the senator from Arizona has recognized is not his strong point. Latinos find themselves invariably, on the sharp end of any recession, any economic slow down when it comes to job losses. I think those two factors in particular will be, will be an obstacle for Senator McCain with the Latino population.

: And finally, will you just spend just a couple minutes on Ohio? Last I checked, the Latino population there is pretty small according to the last census, although perhaps the figure is sort of undercounted. But Senator Obama has been hammering on Senator Clinton's past support of NAFTA. Now both candidates are saying it might be time to renegotiate the agreement. We talked to a reporter for a Mexico, a political - a Mexico-based political publication - a couple of days ago, and he was saying that this is of great concern inside of Mexico. I'm just wondering how you think that issue will play among Latino voters, if it has any resonance at all.

CLEMENS: Well, I think among Latino voters in Ohio - I mean, we're talking 1 percent of eligible voters. So as you said, we are not talking about a large amount of folks. That said, I'm not sure how it will play specific to Latino voters in Ohio. But as far as Latino voters in Texas go, folks here clearly have the sense that NAFTA has largely been beneficial to the state in terms of creating jobs, expanding business, expanding many cities along the border. In terms of how it plays out in Ohio among Latino voters, I really can't say, Michel.

: Okay. Well, that's always good. That's always honest when you say you can't - are you one of those rare guys that asks for directions, too?

CLEMENS: I do. I do - always, invariably.

: Okay. Luis Clemens is an editor with Candidato USA. He joined us from KSTX in San Antonio, Texas. Luis thanks so much. Stop back by again.

CLEMENS: Will do. Many thanks.

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