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The Power of Hispanic Voters, Especially for Democrats

Despite some Republican success in courting Hispanic voters over the last decade, it appears that hard stances by a number of high-profile GOP politicians and presidential candidates on illegal immigration are, predictably, causing a big political U-turn.

That's according to a study released today by the Pew Hispanic Center, which finds that the percentage of Hispanics who say they're Republicans is at its lowest point since at least 1999 —at 23 percent. That's down from 28 percent in 2004 and 2006. That's good news for Democrats: 57 percent of Hispanic voters now say they're Democrats, up from 49 percent in 2006, but still shy of the 58 percent high in 1999.

Interestingly, only one in six Hispanic voters were aware that one of the presidential candidates—New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat—is Hispanic.

The potential sway of Hispanic voters is not to be overlooked. They will make up about 9 percent of the voting population next year, when the country elects a new president. More than one-third of the country's estimated 45.5 million Latinos are school-age (under age 18).

Education and illegal immigration have intersected on the campaign trail. Most recently, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has deflected criticism from fellow Republican presidential candidates on his support of a bill in Arkansas (which eventually failed) that would have granted academic scholarships to children of undocumented immigrants if they meet all other requirements.

Even though immigration is a top concern for Hispanic voters, it's not the top, according to the report.

Education is.

Update: Check out the Learning the Language blog for an interesting item from my colleague Mary Ann Zehr on U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, who is sitting out an upcoming debate. Why? El se opone a que le traduzcan sus comentarios al español.

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