Democrats Tout Shift in Hispanic Voting

Democrats are touting their expanding hold on Hispanic voters in Florida, but GOP officials say they will turn Hispanic voters out in force in 2008.

Hispanic voters registered as Democrats have overtaken Hispanic Republicans in Florida, signaling a trend that, if it continues, could have far-reaching implications for the 2008 election and U.S. foreign policy.

Until now, the politically influential, mostly Republican Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade made Florida the only state in the country where, among Hispanics, Republicans outnumbered Democrats.

April voter registration statistics show 418,339 Hispanic Democrats statewide, compared to 415,068 Hispanic Republicans and 345,108 registered with neither party, according to a Florida Democratic Party analysis of state data. The state provides registration data sorted by party and race to the public only in the month before an election.

The growth among Hispanic Democrats is striking. Since January 2006, when the state began identifying voters as Hispanic, Democratic registration has increased 18 percent. Hispanic Republicans grew by only 2 percent, while Hispanic voters choosing neither party are up 14 percent.The trend reflects a fierce competition between the two major parties for the Hispanic vote, which could represent as much as 15 percent of the electorate in 2008. Florida Democrats are touting their expanding influence in the Hispanic community, while GOP officials say their registration and get-out-the-vote drives will be more aggressive than ever this year.

“There are a few states where the Latino vote is going to be critical — definitely Florida, as well as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada — and those are going to be battleground states in the national scope,” said Lindsay Daniels, a strategist at the National Council of