As Democratic candidates continue to court people of faith, the Republican Party's bid to hold on to such voters, particularly evangelical Hispanics, is slipping.

Nearly four in ten Hispanic voters and two-thirds of Hispanic evangelicals backed Bush in 2004—and those numbers were headed up for 2006. "Conservative projections had 53 percent of all Hispanics and 80 percent of born-again Latinos going Republican," said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Then immigration came to the forefront of national discussion. Republicans generally pegged it a law-and-order issue and talked tough, leaving an opening for Democrats to appeal to Hispanic voters. "Democrats are saying, 'Let's talk about your family and your faith,'" Rodriguez said. "They're saying, 'The other side doesn't want you.'"

In the 2006 midterm elections, Latino support for Republicans sank. "Exit poll numbers showed Hispanics shifted away from the Republicans," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "Latinos gave 30 percent of their vote to Republican candidates, a 10-point swing."

If the pattern continues, the resulting double-digit dive could mean millions more lost votes for the Republicans in 2008. Although Latinos will likely cast only 6.5 percent of the votes in November, according to Lugo, they may double that showing in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The country's largest minority group, Latinos tend to oppose gay marriage and say that abortion should be illegal. More than 80 percent are Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, or evangelicals. But as voters, they often feel a tension between their support for conservative positions on social and moral issues, and ...

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Continental Divide
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February 2008

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