POLITICS

Colorado Latinos, a key voting bloc in battleground state, feel ignored by Trump and Clinton

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  Voters go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights on February 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Latinos are an increasingly important factor in California where they are expected to account for 14 percent of the vote and tend to favor presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) over rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). At 44 million, Latinos make up15 percent of the US population, the nation's largest minority group according to the latest Census Bureau estimates.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Voters go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights on February 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Latinos are an increasingly important factor in California where they are expected to account for 14 percent of the vote and tend to favor presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) over rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). At 44 million, Latinos make up15 percent of the US population, the nation's largest minority group according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2008 Getty Images)

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hone in their campaign efforts to a few key states ahead of the November general election, many Coloradans say they feel like they’re being overlooked by both presidential candidates.

Last week Clinton and Trump toured the Centennial State, billed as a battleground in the race. Be that as it may, voters on each side of the political divide claim that in this election season they have seen very little outreach from either candidate.

Latinos feel particularly ignored.

“We have not seen the type of appeals to the Latino community like we did in 2012, nor have we seen the ground game to mobilize the vote,” Lisa Martinez, a professor of sociology at the University of Denver, told Fox News Latino.

Martinez said that President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign focused heavily on Colorado’s expanding Latino population and helped turn what had for decades been a Republican stronghold into a state that has shifted blue. 

This shift in part forced Republicans to focus their attention on the Hispanic community. The more intensified GOP focus on Latinos also happened on a national level, as the party conducted a so-called autopsy following Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid in 2012. The autopsy, which included an examination of Romney's dismal 27 percent among Latino voters, concluded that the GOP had to step up efforts to connect with minority groups.

Unlike perennial battleground states like Ohio and Florida, Colorado has only recently became a swing state as the state’s population diversifies. 

Of Colorado's more than 1 million Latinos, 555,000 are eligible voters, making them the ninth largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population nationally, according to Pew Hispanic Research. 

Adding to the changing demographics is the near-split between Republicans and Democrats and the fact that the largest bloc of voters in Colorado identifies with neither major political party.

“There was a time when Colorado was very solidly red, now in part to a change in demographics – Latinos, young people, people with college education -- we’re seeing that start to shift.” She said. “I would classify Colorado as a light blue state.”

Colorado went blue in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections when it voted for Obama over Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney respectively, but it also handed Republican Cory Gardner a victory over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall in the 2014 Senate race.

Martinez said that if there were a geographical parsing of Colorado’s voting record, the capital city of Denver would be the dividing line. 

North of Denver, which includes the college towns of Boulder and Fort Collins, typically goes to the Democrats, while the more sparsely populated southern part of the state votes Republican. There are outliers, Martinez noted, like the Latino-heavy Pueblo in southern Colorado and the more conservative Greeley to the north.

Supporters of both Clinton and Trump refute the claims by some Coloradans that they have been ignored during the 2016 presidential race.

The Clinton campaign established itself in Colorado a year ago, setting out to do voter registration drives, fundraising and data collection 10 months before Trump even hired his state director back in June.

Clinton surrogates say that this effort, plus their outreach specifically to Latinos in the state, should win over the community and dispel any rumors that the Democratic nominee takes the Hispanic vote for granted.

“I have seen Hillary Clinton do major outreach to the Latino community in Colorado,” former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told FNL. “Her state director for Colorado is a Latina, Emmy Ruiz, and her senior advisor is Latino, Alan Salazar.”

Salazar added: “In contrast, Donald Trump has ignored the Latino community in Colorado. As my Dad used to tell me 'Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres.' Hillary has walked with us, and she is one of us. In contrast, Donald Trump ignorantly wants to throw us out of our country."

Trump supporters – including his own state director – and ranking Republicans in the state admit that the billionaire businessman has a lot of ground to make up if he hopes to make the Centennial State competitive. Currently the Real Clear Politics average of the latest polls has Clinton beating Trump in Colorado by 9.5 points.

Despite the deficit, Republicans say that the state Republican National Committee needs not only to rein in longtime GOP supporters, but reach out to the pool of independent voters who identify with Trump’s message on issues like immigration, borders security and the economy. 

This is especially important, given that Trump is expected to drive what could be a record number of Latinos to the polls to vote against him, and he will need to draw in voters who have skipped out the last few elections because they feel disaffected by the political system.

“Trump’s message is one that a lot of voters feel,” Ryan Call, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, told FNL. “They feel a lack of opportunity and that the country is not as great as it has been in the past.”

Assertions of outreach aside, with less than four months to go before Election Day there is still that feeling that Latinos are not being talked to.

“It seems weirdly quiet,” Martinez said.

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

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