These days it seems as though both political parties are doing everything they can to disenfranchise one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country: Hispanics.
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While the GOP ratchets up anti-immigrant rhetoric and champions Arizona-style immigration legislation, the Obama administration racks up record yearly numbers of deportations amid promises for a smarter, more compassionate immigration enforcement policy. Still, they ain't voting Rick Perry, or any other GOP hopeful for that matter, a Pew Research Center poll finds.
Among Latinos surveyed, a Perry-Obama match-up sees the incumbent winning 69 percent to Perry's 23. The numbers for a Romney ticket are almost identical. But before Obama declares the Latino vote in the bag, the study has a few sobering numbers: His job approval rating among Hispanics is 49 percent, down from 58 the year before. Nearly one quarter of all Latinos know someone who has been deported, and more than half of them disapprove of Obama's handling of the issue.
Paradoxically, fewer than half realize that Obama has far outpaced Bush in the number of deportations. Latinos also seem more optimistic about the state of the union in general. While more than three quarters of all adults in this country are dissatisfied this country's direction, only 59 percent of Hispanics share that view.
There are some 22 million Hispanics eligible to vote in next year's election -- the most ever. At the moment, it looks like they're going Democratic, but if the GOP wises up and holsters the xenophobic red meat, and if Perry owns up to and flaunts some of his more sensible, human stances, they could become the key swing demographic.