The liberal Center for American Progress put some numbers on the potential power of the untapped Latino vote. The think tank found significant numbers of unregistered U.S. citizens of Latino background in many states, a pool that expanded greatly when they added the number of permanent Latino residents eligible for citizenship before Election Day.
It's a given that Latino voters are viewed by both political parties as critical to the the 2012 general election and that polling shows President Obama, and Democrats generally, enjoying a significant advantage with that such voters.
That reality prompted Mitt Romney to tell donors at a closed-door Palm Beach, Fla. fundraiser in April, in remarks overheard by reporters:
"We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party." He suggested that if the GOP failed to draw significant numbers of Latino voters away from the Democratic Party "that spells doom for us."
The center lists the top ten states with the most unregistered eligible voters as well a non-citizens who are in the U.S. legally and could be naturalized in time for the election. An excerpt from the material provided by the center
"In some key battleground states, the number of eligible but unregistered Latino voters runs into the hundreds of thousands or even millions. On top of these millions of potential voters, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that there are 8.1 million legal permanent residents or green card holders, that are eligible to becomes citizens and vote in the fall election."
California tops the list, with 2 million registered voters and about 2.4 million legal permanent residents, the center said. While that state isn't considered in play for the presidential election, competitive House races clearly could be affected by such numbers.
Several of the states in the center's top ten are considered presidential battleground states. They include Florida with a total of 1.3 potential new voters, Colorado with 242,750 and Virginia with 200,900.
Of course it's one thing to know those potential voters are out there; it's a completely different matter to get them registered and then to the polls on Nov. 6, 2012. That's the challenge facing Democrats and it's not an insignificant one.
Republicans would have those same challenges and then a further, more fundamental one: crafting a message that would make more Democratic-leaning Hispanic voters take a second look at the GOP.