Latinos turned out in slightly higher numbers on Tuesday than they did in the 2010 midterm election but not nearly to the extent that many had expected and hoped.
Exit polls show that Latinos constituted 8 percent of the electorate, about 1 percentage point more than in 2010.
They voted for Democrats over Republicans, by 63 to 35 percent, despite the growing frustration among many Latinos over President Obama's unfulfilled promises to scale back deportations and to take executive action on immigration reform.
The Latinos’ strong ballot box support for Democrats was tempered by their tepid turnout, helping to pave the way for Republicans, experts say, to emergevictorious on Tuesday. White and older voters turned out in large numbers, as tends to be the case in midterms.
Some 55 percent of men favored Republicans, while women went mostly for Democrats.
Jose Dante Parra, a Democratic strategist who in 2010 headed Latino communications for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said that despite all the talk about the importance of Latino voters, get-out-the-vote efforts nationwide focused largely on other demographic groups.
“Both parties – but mostly Democrats, who had the most to lose – were focusing their efforts on red states and appealing to white independents and female voters,” Parra told Fox News Latino. “And the president’s delay with executive action on immigration really dampened enthusiasm with the base.”
“In Nevada, Democrats lost every seat that was up for grabs,” Parra said, “even where Democrats outnumber Republicans by vast numbers.”
And in some communities where Latinos accounted for a significant number of the population, he said “The only people voting were older white people.”
Political experts say the election offers a cautionary tale both to Republicans and Democrats.
The fact that white voters threw their support to the GOP, Republican pollster Bill McInturff told the Wall Street Journal, means that Democrats need to pay attention.
“There’s a lot of congressional districts that are 80 percent white,” he said, according to the Journal, adding that Democrats “have to do better.”
By the same token, McInturff stressed that Republicans need to be concerned about their persistent poor showing among Latinos, who bucked the national trend of supporting the GOP.
“They got smoked with Latinos,” McIntuff was quoted as saying. “So there is a screaming yellow caution sign flashing.”
Obama vowed to act unilaterally in September on aspects of immigration because Congress failed to bring a measure for a vote. But then he said he would delay taking action until after the election, reportedly at the urging of Democrats running for re-election who feared that Republicans would use a unilateral move on immigration – which the GOP vehemently opposes – against them in campaigns.
The Senate passed a bipartisan measure on immigration reform last year that included tighter border security as well as a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria. But the effort stalled in the House, where Republicans, who have a majority, vowed not to pass any bill that provides what they characterize as "amnesty."
Surveys of Hispanic voters by Latino Decisions found that immigration was their top issue.
On Wednesday, immigrant advocacy groups assailed Obama for delaying executive action in what ultimately was a futile attempt to help Democrats prevail in elections on Nov. 4.
“President Obama must decide whether to continue to appease the xenophobes in Congress or fight back in defense of the promise of his Presidency,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “Those who deny his legal authority to protect immigrants are the same people who have asked for his birth certificate. He must stand up to them now, and he must stand with immigrants who are fighting for equality.”