Clinton Needs Texas Latinos to Rescue Her Embattled Candidacy
Next to her gold medallion of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, Rosa Rosales of San Antonio wears a button pin for the woman she considers another patron of Mexican- Americans: Hillary Clinton.
The New York senator needs to prevail in the March 4 primary in Texas, the second most-populous and delegate-rich state in the nation, to salvage her dwindling chances of becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Her victory hinges on winning the support of a substantial majority of Hispanics, who are likely to account for about 35 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, Latino polling experts said.
The front-runner, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, is campaigning to cut into her base, with some success. To hold him off, Clinton probably needs to replicate her performance in the Feb. 5 primary in California, another state with a large Hispanic population, where she carried 71 percent of those voters, according to exit polls.
Clinton, 60, «has to keep her base and expand her base or she loses,’’ said Lydia Camarillo, vice president of Southwest Voters Registration Education Project, a San Antonio-based nonprofit group. «Hispanics are finally in the driver’s seat.’’
Backing Clinton will be plenty of older, female and working- class Hispanics. Her roots in the state date to 1972, when she registered voters in the Rio Grande Valley, a history that is remembered by people such as Rosales, 63, president of Lulac, the largest U.S. Hispanic organization, which is neutral in the race.
South Texas — from San Antonio, the state’s largest Hispanic city, to the Mexican border — is Clinton country. Loyalty to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and appreciation of her commitment to improving education and health care, run deep.
In addition, said Henry Flores, a political scientist at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, trust in a strong woman is ingrained in the matriarchal Hispanic community.
With almost two weeks to go before Texas votes, Obama, 46, still has time to make his case. He is trying to chip away at Clinton’s popularity among Hispanics, just as he has cut into her support among white men, blue-collar voters and women.