Clinton, Obama race for the Latino vote

February 1, 2008 9:10:20 PM PST
Both Clinton and Obama are trying hard to court the fastest growing group of voters in California -- Latinos.

"Si Se Puede!"

Chanting a popular rally cry in Spanish, it's clear Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama is trying to pry Latino voters away from Hillary Clinton. She leads in this key demographic in California 3-to-1.

2.8 million Latino voters, most with Democratic leanings, are set to make a huge impact in the California Primary, making up roughly 20% of turnout. They like the Clinton brand name.

"I just think she'd be better and she's been there before with her husband. And then the first woman President," says Lucy Luna, Clinton Supporter.

Name recognition is something Obama doesn't have among California Latinos, even among early voters. Clinton is also helped by early endorsements from two of the state's most powerful and visible politicians, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

During Thursday's debate, Obama again tried to score points with Latinos by embracing drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

"We don't want a bunch of hit and run drivers because they're worried about being deported; so they don't report an accident," says Obama.

"I do not think it's appropriate to give a drivers license to someone here undocumented," says Clinton.

Rocky Magana is a Clinton supporter and says "it's really good to have drivers licenses for illegals, but it didn't hit me."

While Obama is running out of time, some experts say he has a chance to sway one group.

"By turning out more Latino youth. That'll give him a better shake than Hillary. There's something about Obama and youth groups and excitement and about the future that he's been able to put together," says Jaime Regalado, Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs.

The Clinton brand name may be too difficult to overcome. Bill Clinton won 71 percent of California Latino votes in 1992 and 85 percent in 1996.