President Barack Obama's selection of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court underscores his full-court-press "Latino strategy."
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera said Monday morning that Sotomayor's choice will make the Hispanic community "elated." Of course, he’s right.
Obama's political strategists also are elated.
The Sotomayor choice should be viewed through the prism of Obama's presidential quest in 2008, as well as in view of his plans for re-election in 2012.
Obama's Achilles' heel — and Republicans need to reflect on this — is the Hispanic vote.
During the heated Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton, Obama lost every state with a large Latino population. Hillary carried the Hispanic Democratic vote overwhelmingly.
By getting supermajorities of Hispanics, Hillary won every large state primary — with the exception of Obama's home state of Illinois.
What happened in Illinois is also instructive for background on the Sotomayor choice.
Exit polls taken during the Democratic primary there showed that Hispanics in Illinois went for Obama by 52 percent. Considering that Hillary had conceded the state to Obama — and she had put no resources there — Obama’s paltry victory was even more astounding considering he had been the state's popular Democratic senator and well known to Hispanic voters there.
Clearly, Hispanic voters preferred the conservative Democratic choice, Hillary. Even after he was "anointed" the winner by the major media, Hispanics continued to vote in droves for Hillary who took the Democratic contest all the way to the end of the primary season.
While Obama went on to win Hispanic voters nationwide in his general election contest with John McCain — Obama won the Latino vote by 67 percent to McCain’s 31 percent — he has to recognize that the Latino vote remains a major vulnerability for him.
A large crossover of Hispanic voters to the GOP in the 2004 election cost John Kerry the presidency and gave George W. Bush a second term. While McCain received just 31 percent in 2008, Bush snagged an amazing 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.
Obama can't let that happen again if he wants to remain in the White House.
This is why he is not only selecting Sotomayor, but also moving aggressively on issues such as giving amnesty to illegal aliens. Estimates place the number of illegal aliens in the nation at over 12 million.
Obama has stated he wants to put them on the "path to citizenship" as soon as he can — and he has promised legislation this year that will make that happen.
He wants to not only win over Latino voters with such a move, but also create a new supermajority for the Democratic voters.
Even if his plans to help illegals get citizenship yields 500,000 new voters by 2012, he and his party will likely have a lock on the White House for another term. But in all likelihood, he can add millions of new Hispanic voters to the election rolls over the next few years.
For the moment Senate Republicans need to tread carefully in attacking Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court nominee. Attacks on her will redound in Obama’s favor, increasing his chances to win in 2012.
As liberal as she is, save a major scandal, Republicans will likely need to hold their noses and avoid a street brawl over her nomination.
Instead, Republicans need a strategy to counter Obama’s, which is viewed positively by the Hispanic vote. Hispanics are key for Obama and the Democrats, but they are also key for the Republicans — if they want to avoid being a minority party for a generation.
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