Obama and the Waning Hispanic Vote

As a man who turned the tide of Hispanic votes from Republicans to Democrats in 2008 and spoke out so publicly against the tough Arizona immigration law, how is it possible for President Obama to have weakening support among Latinos?

According to the latest Gallup numbers, President Obama's support among Hispanics is down from 69% in January to 48 percent now.

Slow progress over immigration legislation is one of the culprits, says National Council of La Raza spokeswoman Clarissa Martinez. "I think that there is a great deal of frustration very clearly in the country over the lack of progress on that issue and I think that Latinos feel it very deeply."

A separate poll by the Associated Press and Univision shows overall good job approval ratings for Mr. Obama in the Hispanic community, but less support when asked if the president is in sync with Latino concerns. Fifty-seven percent of Hispanics approve of the president's performance, while only 43 percent say he is adequately addressing Latinos' needs.

However, counter to the current national dialogue, Martinez says immigration is not issue number one for Latinos. Jobs and education rank at the top. Overhauling immigration falls somewhere in the middle.

Still, "as a candidate, President Obama campaigned on the fact that he was going to address comprehensive immigration reform," in his first year in office, Martinez notes, and the failure to get that done is something Hispanic voters remember.

The president was also an early vocal critic of Arizona's tough new immigration law; some of the most controversial portions of which were blocked by a federal judge last month. "We can't start singling out people because of who they look like, or how they talk, or how they dress," President Obama told reporters in early May. In its original form, the law would have allowed police to check into a person's immigration status if he or she was stopped for a separate violation.

The November 2010 political chapter of the immigration debate is yet to be written, though the president's outspokenness in support of immigration reform and against the Arizona law has not gone unheard, says Martinez. "It will definitely resonate. The question is-- there needs to be continued action. It's definitely positive step." Latino voters, she says, are "hungry for a solution to the problem."

Why will this matter in November? Martinez says, "The Latino vote has become an essential part of the equation for a political victory."