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Latinos may have given campaigns and candidates reason to pay more attention to them following their turnout in the Iowa caucuses and its tight races.
Exit polls showed that Latinos were 4 percent or 6,840, of the 171,000 Democratic caucus participants and 2 percent, or 3,700 of the 185,000 Republicans for a total of 10,540.
That number surpasses the goal set by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which waged a campaign to get at least 10,000 Latinos to the polls, double the turnout in 2008.
“We’re counting this as a victory, a total victory for the Latino community with the election being so close and 4 percent, bigger than the margin of victory for Clinton. The Democratic candidates going forward are going to have to pay more attention to us,” said Christian Ucles, LULAC of Iowa’s political adviser.
The effort also puts LULAC in a good place for achieving its next goals in its campaign, to get Latinos to turn out for the general election and participate in legislative elections and to get more Latinos to run for elected office.
The caucus effort leaves them with updated information on Latino registered voters who they’ll return to for other elections.
The unique focus on getting out Latinos to vote seemed to pay dividends and bolster the idea that Latinos will turn out when they are asked to vote, said Larry Gonzalez, a Democratic strategist with the Raben Group in Washington, D.C.
“It bodes well for the rest of the campaign season assuming the funds are available for groups like LULAC and others” to turn out the Latino vote, Gonzalez said.
Which candidate the turnout benefited remained unanswered Tuesday. Sanders was seen as having done heavy outreach to young Latinos and doing well in many Latino-heavy counties, although Clinton won some as well.
LULAC was assisted in its effort by a Washington consulting group whose founder and president Chuck Rocha is now working for Sanders' campaign. The firm did two robocalls and two mailings for LULAC, which is non-partisan.
Rocha said his firm did not do work for Sanders in Iowa. Enriquez Henry said agreements were made to keep LULAC's voter list information private.
According to exit polls, Sanders won the 18-44 year old caucus participants, while Clinton did best among those 45 and up, who were 64 percent of the Democratic caucus goers polled.
The close finish between Clinton and Sanders, 49.9 percent vs. 49.6 percent, respectively, may be good news for turning out Latinos.
“I think the value for Latinos is it’s a competitive race and so that would tend to engage an electorate more,” Gonzalez said.
“It should be a message to both campaigns they should continue to engage them,” he said.
Joe Enriquez Henry, LULAC national vice president for the Midwest, said for many of the people who responded to LULAC's campaign, their mailers urging them to caucus was the only campaign mailer they got. Henry on the other hand and his wife, regular voters and caucus attendees, got stacks of mailers from campaigns several inches thick.
Henry said the importance of LULAC's work was most evident when people who spoke limited English showed up to caucus. "That was the most powerful moment ,,, they showed up because they were invited by us, the community," Enriquez Henry said.
Oscar Ramirez, a Democratic strategist for the Podesta Group, had campaigned for Martin O’Malley in Iowa. O’Malley dropped from the race after his 1 percent finish in Iowa.
Ramirez said O’Malley’s departure creates an opportunity for Sanders or Clinton to “pick up the torch.”
“Gov. O’Malley was as vocal as anyone in talking about issues that affect the community, Puerto Rico, immigration, Central America,” he said.
“He brought up those issues everywhere, not only in front of Latino audiences,” Ramirez said. “There is space (now) for someone to step up and do that and not only in the Latino community.”