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Sanders, Clinton Race For Nevada's Latino Vote


Chuck Burton/AP

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley take the stage after individually answering questions during the First In The South Democratic Presidential Forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.

Earlier this week, democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley stumped in Las Vegas.

At a rally in North Las Vegas on Sunday, replete with a 10-piece mariachi band,  Sanders made it clear what voting bloc he is after in Nevada. And again on Monday, Sanders vowed to close privately run immigrant detention centers and to protect all immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years.

The senator from Vermont launched a series of ads on Spanish television and radio stations aimed at Latino and Hispanic voters.

Sanders, however, undoubtedly has a long way to go to catch up with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has been on the ground since April in Nevada. 

UNLV political scientist David Damore told KNPR's State of Nevada agrees Sanders has ground to make up. 

"He's way behind on this and he has sort of two barriers on this," Damore said. "The first is just getting himself known. He's starting late and he'll be playing a lot of catchup."

According to Damore, most Latinos in Nevada are Democrats and he says they're going to be a key bloc, especially for the caucuses in February.

Nevada's unions have a strong Latino component and those unions are very active in the caucus process, Damore said. 

Support comes from

The two biggest issues for most Latino voters are jobs and immigration. Damore believes immigration has become a litmus test for Latino voters.  

He said Hillary Clinton has come out strong on the issue, pushing further than President Barack Obama. 

"It's a very, very personal issue for Latino voters," he said. He said most people in the Latino community are some how connected to someone who is unauthorized. 

The big question could be how many Latinos voters make it to the polls in 2016. Damore believes there will be a much bigger effort to mobilize all Democrats for the next election. 

Damore said candidates who want to capture that voting bloc need to get out into the communities, talk, listen and engage with voters.

"There is still a lot of cynicism among Latinos toward politics and toward politicians  and if they're not coming to the community not speaking to them about their issues there is little incentive for Latino voters to turn out," he said.

Of the 23 million Latino voters eligible to vote in the last election, only 11 million turned out. 

Damore said that is partly because the geography of the population. 

"There is little attempt to get Latinos registered in the two states with the biggest Latino populations: Texas and California because those states are not competitive," he said.

As for the Republicans, Damore said it is really about numbers. Very few Latinos in Nevada are registered Republicans so going after those voters to be at the caucuses doesn't make a lot of sense, he said.


David Damore, political scientist, UNLV